And now here’s some slightly good news for fans of the old Haleakala Trail, that ancient path leading from Makawao to the dormant volcano’s summit. Located on Haleakala Ranch land, the trail’s been closed for years. Then on May 11, the state Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) voted to allow “limited” public access to the trail, which is itself apparently owned by the State of Hawaii.
The key word here is “limited.” The board approved the scheduling of at least two public hikes per year “on such dates and during such times as the [Haleakala Ranch] shall determine in coordination with [Department of Land and Natural Resources].”
If that seems, well, completely unsatisfactory, you’re not alone. “In essence, DLNR’s Request is asking BLNR to abdicate its statutory duties and violate its own rules, including asking BLNR to put the rights of HRC ahead of the public’s rights–something that has already been occurring for at least a decade,” said Tom Pierce, a Makawao-based attorney for Public Access Trails Hawaii (PATH), a group that wants a lot more than two hikes on the trail per year, in written comments to the BLNR.
According to PATH, the trail is historic and still in existence. In fact, many of the old posts marking the trail are still pointing skyward.
“The trail has shown up on very good government survey maps since the 1880s,” states PATH in its comments to the BLNR. “The trail was dramatically improved at great cost by the Territory of Hawaii in 1905, at which time it was not only surveyed but also its position carefully established on the ground with rock cairns and finger posts, many of which remain fully visible on the ground today, as well as portions of the trail, which may be seen from indentations in the ground.”
The May 11 BLNR decision notwithstanding, PATH is continuing in its quest to open the trail completely. They’re currently suing the state and Haleakala Ranch, and say their case is scheduled to come up in January 2013.
“On Maui, the state is closing many more trails than it is opening,” PATH president David Brown said in a May 13 statement. “This case is about requiring BLNR to follow its legislative mandate to protect public lands, and obtaining respect from private landowners who deny public access over clearly public trails.”
Photo courtesy PATH