Maui Discussion

Bill Seeks Reimbursement for Rescue of Hikers who Enter Prohibited Areas

By Wendy Osher
February 24, 2021, 7:38 AM HST
* Updated February 24, 11:12 AM
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ʻĪao Rescue. PC: (9.10.19) by Wendy Osher.

Individuals who require rescue after leaving a hiking trail to enter a prohibited area, or enter a trail that is closed to the public, could end up having to pay for expenses incurred by government entities involved in the search and rescue operation.  

Senate Bill 700 was introduced earlier this week and is supported by Senators J. Kalani English and Gil Keith-Agaran of Maui, who are among the bill’s primary sponsors.

It seeks to impose penalties on individuals who intentionally disregard safety and enter areas that are marked with trespass signs or other signage giving reasonable notice of closure.

On Maui, hikers have been rescued from places like the “Bamboo Forest” in Kailua, the upper reaches of ʻĪao Valley, and East Maui’s Kaihalulu Beach. A swift water rescue at Waioka in Hāna earlier this month ended tragically when a visitor died in a flash flood event at the location.

DLNR Chairperson Suzanne Case submitted testimony on Feb. 11, saying that while this may be an incentive for people to obey the rules, it could also discourage people from calling for help. 

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She said, “The Department is in support of any strategy that will incentivize the general public to stay within authorized managed areas and already has statutory penalties for violation of laws and rules adopted specifically for going into closed areas. While these penalties are in place, absent enforcement and citations, they are clearly not a deterrent.”

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Supporters of the measure say the people of Hawaiʻi have been covering the cost of these adventurers for too long. One testifier wrote, “It is time that we are not held responsible for their irresponsibility.”

The Maui Fire Department invites residents and visitors alike to view the following link online for helpful information regarding precautions to take while hiking any of Maui’s natural sites.

A hearing on the bill took place this morning before the senate Judiciary Committee. The chair indicated he wanted to keep the conversation going and suggested amending the bill to reflect a delayed effective date of May 6, 2137. The bill advanced with amendments.

Bamboo Forest rescue on March 12, 2018. PC: Matt Kinoshita
Rescue at Makamakaʻole. PC: Rhett Russell (3.2.20)
MFD (9.15.17) Kaihalulu “Red Sand” Beach rescue.
Wendy Osher
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served more than 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.
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