After years of debate, major changes are in the works for a popular hiking trail in Windward Oahu.
Residents living near the Maunawili Falls Trail have been fed up with illegal parking, frequent hiker rescues and hikers looking for restrooms. Neighbors are calling for the area to be regulated, and want access limited.
A draft plan proposes only permitted, contracted tour vans carrying a maximum of 300 users weekly to enter the area. No foot traffic would be allowed.
The plan includes free public tours for kama'aina on the first Saturday of each month, but some local hikers aren't happy with the idea.
"I wouldn't want to go in a tour group. I'm more of a seclusion, go out in nature and kind of do my own thing. That's the point of hiking, to me," Kailua resident Duc Truong said.
Hikers would still be able to reach the waterfall from three other trails.
The trail crosses property that belongs to both the state and HRT Realty, LLC. In order to keep its conditional use permit for a nearby golf club, the company is proposing to move the trailhead about a mile away to an historic area known as the Queen's Retreat.
Christine Nakamatsu, a board member of the Maunawili Estates Community Association, said the rules are needed to help protect the area.
"We're looking at the environment and saying, 'What is the carrying capacity for this area? How much can the land support before we're actually deteriorating what's there?'" Nakamatsu explained.
Some residents want the access point closed immediately while a long-term plan is put in place. Nakamatsu says charging for access is common among hiking hot spots.
"To make an attraction sustainable in perpetuity, what we're seeing at other places like Manoa Falls, where they charge $5 for parking, Diamond Head charges, Hanauma Bay charges," Nakamatsu said.
HRT has offered to provide access to 20 acres for parking, restrooms and cultural site visits. The company also agreed to convey 20 acres adjacent to Maunawili Park to relocate the Olomana access trail, another hike without designated parking. In exchange, HRT will require the state to provide funding for roadway improvements leading to the new parking and restroom area.
The company also wants the state to relinquish any claim to Old Government Road.
Hawaii News Now contacted HRT and Mayor Kirk Caldwell's office, but did not receive a response. A spokesperson for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources said the state needed more time to review the document before commenting.
The new cost estimate for this scaled back proposal is $851,300. HRT must submit its management plan to the city by June 1. A temporary closure is allowed as long as the new trailhead is open to the public by October 1.