By Tommy Noyes
Dog walkers are some of Ke Ala Hele Makalae’s most dedicated users, perhaps because dogs are always ready and willing to go for a walk regardless of the weather.
A decade ago, as the path along the Kapa‘a and Kealia coast was being built, it was uncertain whether or not dogs would be allowed.
During construction, the path was under the control of the Department of Public Works which had no restrictions regarding dogs or other animals, but when construction was finished, management of Ke Ala Hele Makalae was transferred to the Department of Parks and Recreation. At that point, path users were (and are currently) subject to a different set of regulations that control park activities.
In 2008, emotionally charged discussions to sort out this issue swirled in the Kaua‘i County Council. Local ordinances prohibited animals in county parks, and those ordinances would prohibit dogs from the new path unless amended.
Opponents of dogs on the path warned of bad mannered dogs fighting each other and intimidating or biting path users, and cited health hazards from feces.
Supporters of dog walking pointed out that elsewhere dog walking on comparable shared use paths is allowed without significant problems, it is totally legal and common practice to walk leashed dogs on residential streets and urban sidewalks, and the dog droppings issue is manageable.
After an 18-month long trial period conducted within a limited section of Ke Ala Hele Makalae, findings were presented to the council. The ordinances were amended and took effect in June 2010 to allow dogs on most of Ke Ala Hele Makalae, subject to the restrictions listed below.
Leashed dogs may be on Ke Ala Hele Makalae (the Eastside’s shared-use coastal path).
Dogs may be walked on the path in Lydgate Park, except for the portion of path paralleling the beach and Nalu Drive up to the swimming ponds.
Dogs may be on the paved portion of the path plus six feet on either side; in toilets, picnic pavilions, and rest stations; and led directly from trailhead parking facilities to the path. Dogs are not allowed in other areas of county parks, unless specifically designated.
The dog handler must be in control of their dog at all times, but there is no minimum age requirement for dog handler. It is not allowed to leave a tied up dog unattended.
Two dogs per handler is the maximum.
Dog handlers must have a poop bag in evidence. The Kaua‘i Humane Society worked with the Department of Parks and Recreation, donating and installing several dispensers for bio-degradable poop bags.
Dog handlers must remove and dispose of dogs’ feces.
Dogs must be licensed.
The maximum leash length is six feet, and extendable leashes are not allowed.
Dog handlers must leave the path area if their dog gets aggressive.
Today, dog walkers deserve our admiration for practicing good etiquette on Ke Ala Hele Makalae. There are no droppings in sight, the dogs are well socialized, and dog walking is one more good reason to enjoy Ke Ala Hele Makalae every day.
- Tommy Noyes is Kaua‘i Path’s executive director, a League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructor and active with the Kaua‘i Medical Reserve Corps.