After making progress, rock climbers 'baffled' by change in bill

Published: Apr. 6, 2014 at 1:12 AM HST|Updated: Apr. 6, 2014 at 10:14 AM HST
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A measure that would have allowed rock climbers to resume their sport has been amended, catching outdoor enthusiasts by surprise.

The measure is SB 1007, SD1 HD2.

If you're doing some outdoor activity on public land, such as hiking on the Manoa Falls trail, you'll see signs warning you of hazards such as falling rocks or flash flooding. Those signs come under Act 82, which took effect in 2003.

"As long as the state warns the public that this could be dangerous, then the state is protected from liability," said Chad Taniguchi, executive director of the Hawaii Bicycling League.

Act 82 is set to expire at the end of June. SB 1007 would make the law permanent.  It also would protect the state against similar natural hazards on two million acres of so-called "unimproved lands," where the public is not invited.

However, it no longer includes what are known as "dangerous non-natural conditions."

"For example, fixed lines on mountain trails, bolts that have been put into cliffs by climbers, modifications to trails by bikers, and launching sites for paragliders," said Mike Richardson of Climb Aloha.

A provision in the bill would have allowed Richardson and others to resume rock climbing. There's been no place to do that on Oahu after a climbing zone in Mokuleia was closed when a 12-year-old girl was hit on the head and critically injured by a falling rock.

The state also paid a $15.4 million settlement in the deaths of two hikers on Kauai.

The original draft included such non-natural conditions, but after a hearing on Thursday, the House Finance Committee removed that provision.

"Part of the bill has been passed, making Act 82 permanent, but the rest of it has been gutted, and we're very confused. And baffled, actually," said Richardson.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources said that even without that provision, it will still work on a way to reopen the Mokuleia climbing area. But supporters of the original measure contend that biking, hiking and other activities will be at risk without it.

"Without this bill, there will be no choice," said Taniguchi. "The people won't be able to go because the state will just shut it down."

Related story: Local rock climbers clear hurdle

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