HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Kamehameha Schools sent "cease and desist" requests this week to about 25 bloggers who promote hiking trails on the estate's private property, asking them to remove any mentions of their properties.
The landowner installed a wrought-iron fence and gate at the entrance to its popular Mariner's Ridge trail in Hawaii Kai late last year.
On Jan. 22, hiking blogger Kenji Saito received an email from Kamehameha Schools, which owns the trail, asking him to immediately remove mentions of the Mariner's Ridge and Kamehame Ridge trails, which Kamehameha also owns.
Saito has been blogging about various hiking trails for about three years, he said. A post from 2010 details hikes on Mariner's Ridge, with a half dozen photos and descriptions.
"We ask that you consider helping us prevent criminal trespassing on our private properties, and instead responsibly promote hikes that are safe and open to the public." wrote Kekoa Paulsen, Kamehameha's community relations director in the email to Saito and other websites or bloggers that promote hikes on the estate's land.
"Initially I was flabbergasted that my little blog garnered the attention of KSBE (Kamehameha Schools)," Saito told Hawaii News Now. "And I just believe it's a suppression of free speech."
"Please cease and desist from any future mention or promotion…" of the trails, the email asked.
If the web sites do not confirm they removed references to the trails within two weeks, Paulsen said the landowner "… will seek further recourse against your entity and administration."
"I guess they're basically just trying to scare a couple bloggers into taking down their posts and I guess starting a discussion in the hiking community, which they have, I believe, successfully started," Saito said, noting that he's leaving references to trails on Kamehameha land on his sites for now.
Asked if the estate would go to court to get hiking web sites to stop recommending hikes on Kamehameha property, Paulsen said, "We can't take direct action. We're not law enforcement."
Responding to Saito's complaint that the estate is trying to scare or bully people, Paulsen said, "We're just asking for their cooperation in protecting this land."
Mariner's Ridge residents said up to 500 people used to hike there every weekend, but since Kamehameha installed a big new fence in early December, very few people are using the trail.
On the same day the emails went out to bloggers, a sign was posted at Kaluanui, also known as Mariner's Ridge, saying video surveillance is now recording license plates and people hiking there to use to prosecute them for trespassing.
The estate seeks to "protect these conservation lands from litter, erosion, criminal trespassing and further degradation caused by foot traffic," Paulsen said.
The ridge lands "have never been open to the public," Paulsen said, noting that thousands of people have hiked there anyway for years. "Our intent is to manage access to these sites so we can reduce the erosion and further degradation of these conservation lands caused by years of unauthorized and increasing foot traffic."
The landowner allows access to the Mariner's Ridge trail through the Sierra Club and the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club for supervised hikes at specific times.
Here's the notice Kamehameha Schools sent out on Jan. 22:
Re: Request to cease and desist promotion of trespassing on private property owned by Kamehameha Schools
Aloha online hike promoter,
We recently learned that Kamehameha Schools' (KS) privately owned Kaluanui ridge and/or Kamehame ridge (including Makapu'u Tom-Tom trail) properties are currently promoted on your web site as premiere hiking destinations on O'ahu. On behalf of Kamehameha Schools, I ask that your web site administrator remove our private properties, noted as Mariner's Ridge Trail and/or Kamehame Ridge Trail, from your list of hikes by Friday, February 7, 2014.
As the landowner of Kaluanui ridge (Mariner's Ridge Trail) and Kamehame ridge, Kamehameha Schools seeks to protect these conservation lands from litter, erosion, criminal trespassing and further degradation caused by foot traffic. The safety of hikers is also a concern as our property has been deemed unsafe for general public access. Recently, we formally announced to the public, via media and posted signs, that Kamehameha Schools will prosecute those who disregard our posted warnings.
As leaders in the online digital network services industry who promote hikes to outdoor enthusiasts, we ask that you consider helping us prevent criminal trespassing on our private properties, and instead responsibly promote hikes that are safe and open to the public. Hawai'i's Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) provides a list of sanctioned public hikes on its web site that you may use as a resource. View list at: http://state.hi.us/dlnr/activities/ .
It is with great respect that we request the following:
1) Please immediately remove Mariner's Ridge Trail and/or Kamehame Ridge Trail, and any current recommendations and mentions of these properties, from your web site.
2) Please cease and desist from any future mention or promotion of Mariner's Ridge Trail and/or Kamehame Ridge Trail as hikes on your web site.
3) Please provide written confirmation of compliance to this request within fourteen days of receiving this letter. Without confirmation, KS will seek further recourse against your entity and administration.
We understand you may not have been aware that "Mariner's Ridge Trail" and Kamehame ridge are private property. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me using the information provided below.
Me ka ha'aha'a (Humbly),
Director, Community Relations & Communications Kamehameha Schools