Dispute comes to a head over beach access in Papaikou

Published: Oct. 13, 2012 at 1:54 AM HST|Updated: Oct. 13, 2012 at 8:42 PM HST
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PAPAIKOU, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - A long-simmering dispute over access to Papaikou Mill Beach north of Hilo has heated up, with the Hawaii County Council getting involved.

Emotions ran high earlier this week at a public hearing on a council resolution to initiate eminent domain proceedings to acquire the Papaikou Mill Road and beach access to make it public.

The trail is currently owned by James Waugh and Charlene Prickett. And many residents are angry that the landowners have restricted access to the beach.

"You go down nowadays, the gates is closed in the morning. You go down at night, the  gates is closed. You try and go around the gate, you cannot. You try and climb that gate, you going get arrested," said one of the more than 40 people who testified at the council hearing.

"I go down to the beach, you know, thinking that I was going to have a good day surfing. Next thing you know, the cops is down there on the beach. They wanna arrest me because I was trespassing," said another.

County Council Chair Dominic Yagong introduced the resolution to acquire the trail. He and other council members were able to tour the trail before the hearing. Waugh showed council members where he proposes to have a new trail for public access. He and Prickett also said they have made improvements to the trail and the property, and have the right to restrict access.

"You plan any ag activities, ag projects here?" asked Councilman Angel Pilago during the tour. "Well, we're growing hardwood trees. We've got teak. You just came by mahogany and teak," Prickett said in response.

Waugh also outlined the new proposed trail at the hearing, but many residents told the council it is unsafe.

"It's a treacherous place," said one man. "It would take a lot of energy and a lot of effort."

"Where they like put the trail is all cliffs. Dangerous cliffs," said another.

Another supporter of the measure is former county planning director Chris Yuen. "This is meant to ensure that people have a guarantee of long-term access to the beach. And you've heard how important this is to the people here," Yuen said at the hearing.

The council's finance committee is scheduled to vote next week on whether to forward the resolution to the full council.

BigIslandVideoNews.com contributed to this report.

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