City considers restricting access to Maunawili Falls trail

City considers restricting access to Maunawili Falls trail
Published: Feb. 22, 2016 at 11:24 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 22, 2016 at 11:37 PM HST
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MAUNAWILI, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - City officials will hold a hearing Tuesday to consider closing the main public access point to Maunawili Falls trail, which attracts more than 1,000 a week.

The muddy path crosses state land and private property owned by HRT Ltd. Many residents who live close to the trailhead near the Maunawili Estates Subdivision want the city to close the public access point, which is currently required in the private landowner's conditional use permit.

"The whole thing is such a big mess and the neighbors there are really harassed in so many ways -- no parking, no restrooms, no way for people to clean up. It has been very dangerous," said Chuck Prentiss, chairman of the Kailua Neighborhood Board.

Neighbors are also concerned about crime, the frequent rescues, and the lack of trail maintenance.

"It's in extremely bad shape now. Every week we see the helicopters flying overhead to rescue hikers," said Christine Nakamatsu, a member of the Maunawili Estates Community Association.

But George Atta, director of the city's Department of Planning and Permitting, said closing the main access point will just move the problem to another area of the community.

"If you do shut this portion down it won't solve the problem in that there are other ways to access the falls and the trail," he said.

Some groups that favor the immediate closure also want the stakeholders to agree on a long-term plan to ensure alternative access.

A report prepared for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources recommends the relocation of the trail head as well as construction of a parking lot and restroom in an area known as Queen's Retreat. The estimated price tag is $6.3 million.

"It would be a win-win if we can get the state and HRT and the city to all work together and come up with something that would be a wonderful historic attraction," Nakamatsu said.

The hearing is Tuesday start at 10 a.m. in the Mission Memorial Building.

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