Concerns Rise Over Dirt Bike Riding in Kokeʻe
State officials and landowners are urging the public to stop riding dirt bikes and other all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) in Kokeʻe, as it is illegal and damaging to the land.
Despite warning and no-trespassing signs throughout the area, dozens of people on dirt bikes, mountain bikes, and all-terrain vehicles can be heard racing nearly every weekend between Koke‘e State Park and Kekaha on both sides of Highway 552. Areas include Kokeʻe Bowl.
Dirt bikers caught riding on DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW), or State Park-managed lands could be cited by officers from the DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE). DOCARE is responsible for enforcing all rules and laws on lands under DLNR jurisdiction.
“On Kaua‘i, the demand for recreational access and uses far out-weighs the available land on our small island,” said Sheri S. Mann, the Kaua‘i Branch Manager for DOFAW. “We cannot accommodate destructive or dangerous uses, as we have an obligation to protect the natural and cultural resources on all lands under our stewardship.”
Mann does have empathy for local riding enthusiasts who complain they have few legal places to ride on the Garden Island.
“However, these activities on lands under DLNR jurisdiction, under the Agribusiness Development Corporation (AGC), and the Dept. of Hawaiian Homelands (DHHL) is illegal, and the signage clearly states that,” Mann said.
Aside from being illegal, it’s also dangerous. According to a DLNR press release, keiki have been seen on dirt bikes or quads crossing the highway, which has blind curves. Riders are crossing into safety zones that are established in hunting areas, where Mann says “mixing speeding bikes with people carrying guns could be a recipe for a tragedy.”
Numerous no-trespassing signs have been vandalized or taken. According to the release, some bikers are also setting up small encampments on Saturdays and Sundays on state lands.
In addition to the obvious dangers of bikes cruising through active hunting areas, land managers are concerned that the bikers may be spreading invasive species. There is also concern over sparking wildfires from their tailpipes in an area with typically dry vegetation.
A firebreak, created by DOFAW, to keep wildfires from jumping across the highway has become a popular raceway.
“This was created for the specific purpose of protecting life and property and not as a dirt bike track,” Mann said.