Community battles on Oahu, Maui highlight tensions over access to public trails
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The fight for public access to Hawaii’s trails and beaches has been going on for decades — and local hikers are continuing to fight for their rights.
Jim Barrett, who lives outside the gated community, loves taking his dog Ulu to the Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail.
But he said he’s been repeatedly turned away by a security guard who said dogs aren’t allowed.
“I was actually alarmed in the feeling of the aggression of him telling me that I couldn’t access something that I’ve accessed hundreds of times,” said Barrett.
Long-time hiker Tzana Saldana says access to the trail is “inconsistent.”
“You kind of leave your house feeling like, is this the day you can go up there or not,” said Saldana. “So, it’s like a hesitating feeling that I get.”
Meanwhile, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) said the trail is open to dogs on leashes and licensed hunters with dogs.
In response to the issue, the Waialae Iki 5 Community Association said in a statement:
We investigated this issue further and discovered that there was a misunderstanding with some of the guards. We made each guard aware that the public can access the trail with or without dogs present.
Hikers are hoping the problem is solved but they still have their doubts.
“I’m willing to stand up and fight for that for not only myself, but for everybody else,” said Barrett.
Non-profit Public Access Trails Hawaii (PATH) has been fighting for those rights for years.
“Our big fight is Haleakala Trail, which goes through a large ranch,” said PATH Executive Director David Brown.
Brown said the group won a court battle in 2016, affirming that trail as public land.
However, the group is now filing another lawsuit claiming the state has failed to take control of the land from Haleakala Ranch.
“It’s shocking, but it’s a management by default,” said Brown. “It’s easy to close things and it’s harder to keep them open for sure.”
Brown added that managements should allow people to use public land — not close it off.
Hawaii News Now reached out to DLNR and Haleakala Ranch for comment and are waiting to hear back.
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