Land battle puts future of Kalaupapa mule rides on rocky terms

Land battle puts future of Kalaupapa mule rides on rocky terms

KALAUPAPA, MOLOKAI (HAWAIINEWSNOW) - Landowner R.W. Meyer is evicting Kalaupapa Rare Adventures from land it owns in Molokai, effectively ending the company's escorted mule ride and hiking operations.

According to a news release, R.W. Meyer's lease with KRA ended on January 31, 2017. Since then, KRA has continued tourist operations without paying monthly rent for its use of R.W. Meyer land.

The landowner also says that KRA has ignored repeated requests to show proof of liability insurance, placing R.W. Meyer at risk for potential lawsuits.

R W Meyer board members voted  to increase the rent in January of 2017 from $1,800 to $3,000, and an eviction notice was formally served to KRA on March 20.

The 3.5-mile Kalaupapa Trail is known for its steep incline and rough terrain and mule riders have been injured on several occasions.

In December a 54-year old man visiting from California was knocked unconscious when he fell off his mule and suffered head injuries. An Kalaupapa Rare Adventures employee also fell off her mule in the same incident, injuring her head and torso.

"This is not about greed or stopping a business from operating mule rides or tours to Kalaupapa to share the history of Molokai," said Paul Meyer, President of R.W. Meyer, in a news release.

"This is about good business practices and fulfilling our responsibility to our shareholders and the 900 living descendants of R.W. Meyer. Everyday that Kalaupapa Rare Adventures operates without a lease agreement, we are put at risk, and they have refused to make any attempts to pay rent or even respond to our requests to negotiate a new lease. They left us no choice but to evict them from our property."

According to R.W. Meyers, KRA continued normal business operations after the eviction notice was served. On its website, the company lists charges of up to $209 per person for the mule ride, and up to $79 per hiker.

"Our business is conducted professionally and in conformance with the law. In order to operate in Kalaupapa, we are required to have liability insurance."

"It's unfortunate that corporate entities are continuing to try to push native communities off our aina. We look forward to this issue being settled in court," said said Kalehua Sproat-Augustiro, co-owner of Molokai Mule Ride.

"Until then, we will remain on our aina and will conduct business as usual.

Meyer says that other businesses have expressed interest in having escorted tours on the land he's hopeful the tradition can continue once the eviction goes through.

"My great grandfather, Rudolph Wilhelm Meyer, was the first superintendent of the Kalaupapa Leper Settlement," said Meyer in a news release. "We would like nothing more than to continue sharing this experience and the rich history of Molokai and Kalaupapa with our visitors. "

"But, we need to do this in a responsible manner with a company that honors and respects what we have agreed upon, and keeps our visitors safe."

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