KALAUPAPA, MOLOKAI (HAWAIINEWSNOW) - A popular Molokai mule tour is on the verge of shutting down after more than 40 years in operation.
Kalaupapa Rare Adventures guides visitors on mule rides down a 1,600-foot cliff to the isolated Kalaupapa peninsula. It's arguably the Friendly Isle's best-known tourist activity, but a dispute over rent could force the tours to stop.
"They basically want to up our rent and charge us a toll fee," said Kalehua Sproat, one of Eldon "Buzzy" Sproat's daughters, who started the company back in the 1970s.
Eldon Sproat died in 2014, and the Sproat family promised to keep the business running and his legacy alive, but RW Meyer Ltd. and Miala Inc. -- the companies that own the land where the business partially operates on -- are putting those promises in jeopardy.
Sproat said company President Paul Meyer is increasing the family's monthly rent from $1,800 to $3,000 and demanding 20 percent of the business profits.
"If anyone knows how it is to raise animals and to run a business here in Hawaii, they'll know that you're lucky if you even take home 20 percent after everything is paid out," said Sproat.
R W Meyer board members voted on Saturday 7-2 for increasing the rent.
Timothy Stack voted against it and said he doesn't know why Meyer is trying to evict the business.
"The demand didn't come from the board, it came from Paul," Stack said. "That's the way he sees it and that's the way he wants it. Why? That's still a mystery."
Hawaii News Now requested an interview with Meyer, but he replied via email on Monday stating "the matter is in dispute and has been referred to our attorney."
A gate blocking the Kalaupapa trail head is also adding to the controversy. It's unclear when it was installed, but Sproat believes it's illegal and an added hindrance to business.
If a compromise isn't met, the mule rides and a 40-year family legacy will be forced to end.
"The purpose of carrying this out and going on with this business is to carry out my dad's legacy and that's all we want to do," said Kalehua Sproat.
"It's hard for me to imagine them not being there and I don't want them to leave," added Stack.
State Rep. Lynn DeCoite said if the tours end, it would be a major loss to the community.
"I would hope that both families would sit down and come up with a reasonable way to have the company still exist," she said.