May 13, 2012
State Establishes First Access to Haleakala Trail in Decades
At its meeting on Friday, May 11, 2012, the Hawaii Board of Land and Natural Resources approved a memorandum of agreement with landowner Haleakala Ranch Company (HRC) to restore limited access to the public.
The MOA will provide a minimum of two hiking events each year “on such dates and during such times as the [HRC] shall determine in coordination with DLNR.” The MOA requires the state to protect HRC and its employees from liability. It also requires DLNR to establish a hike information and reservation system for the hikes.
BLNR received written testimony from at least 60 people, almost all objecting that the MOA did not provide sufficient access. Attorney Tom Pierce, representing PATH, stated in written testimony, “In essence, DLNR’s Request is asking BLNR to abdicate its statutory duties and violate its own rules, including asking BLNR to put the rights of HRC ahead of the public’s rights – something that has already been occurring for at least a decade.” Access proponents, among them members of the Oahu-based Hawaii Trail and Mountain Club, gave similar oral testimony during the lengthy hearing.
Access proponents also challenged the safety concerns raised by DLNR staff and HRC employees, such as roving cattle, rough terrain, and activities related to removal of gorst, an invasive weed. PATH responded in its written testimony that the trail was engineered by the Territory of Hawaii to provide safe access for inexperienced tourists, and that numerous public trails run through cattle ranches, without problem.
During the hearing some BLNR members expressed their concern with the two hikes per year minimum and encouraged DLNR and HRC to assure that those interested in hiking would be given the opportunity to do so. It remains to be seen whether DLNR and HRC will take the members’ request to heart.
Meanwhile, the pending lawsuit filed by PATH against the state and HRC continues with trial scheduled for January 2013. “On Maui, the state is closing many more trails than it is opening,” explained PATH president, David Brown. He summarized, “This case is about requiring BLNR to follow its legislative mandate to protect public lands, and obtaining respect from private landowners who deny public access over clearly public trails.”
For more information, go to: http://pathmaui.org/, or email PATH at email@example.com, or follow PATH on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pathmaui.