Haleakala Trail is public land

SUBHEAD: Jury finds that the Hawaiian public owns and has always owned the Haleakala Trail.

By Staff on 23  April 2014 for Path Maui -

Image above: Some Haleakala Trail guideposts that guided the way for thousands over many years. From original article. Photos by Shannon Berkowitz on 12/15/13from original article. Clock to embiggen.

On Wednesday, after a long fourteen day jury trial before Judge Cardoza in the Maui Circuit Court, a jury returned a verdict in favor of the State of Hawaii (State) and plaintiffs Public Access Trails Hawaii (PATH), David Brown, Ken Schmitt, and Joe Bertram III, who are the lead plaintiffs in a class action on behalf of all pedestrians in Hawaii.

The jury found that the State owns—and has always owned—the historic Haleakala Trail. The jury also dismissed Defendant Haleakala Ranch Company (HRC)’s competing claim to ownership of Haleakala Trail, which the State and plaintiffs have long alleged was based on no evidence or law.

David Brown, executive director of PATH and one of the lead plaintiffs in the case, said that the jury verdict was “monumental and ground-breaking.” “The court victory today should be celebrated by anyone who wants to recognize, preserve and protect Hawaii’s unique and rich cultural past, including Hawaii’s historical trails,” Brown explained.

Ken Schmitt, another lead plaintiff, added that although Hawaii has many laws that protect the public’s interest in Hawaii’s historic trails, including the Highways Act of 1892, which places trails in the public trust, the political reality in Hawaii is that trails are often neglected and ignored.

Schmitt reiterated the importance that this jury verdict had, and in particular applauded the State’s active role in defeating dubious claims of ownership to historical Hawaiian trails.

At trial, the State and plaintiffs presented evidence showing public use and government ownership of Haleakala Trail, including documents from the Hawaii State archives, government maps, newspapers, legislative journals, and travel narratives including those from Mark Twain, Jack London and Isabella Bird.

There was also expert testimony from Anthony Crook, a professional surveyor, Doris Moana Rowland, the Na Ala Hele State title abstractor, and Richard Stevens, Ph.D., a world historian and expert trail researcher.

Brown said that the jury really connected with the story that the State and plaintiffs presented at trial. The evidence at trial demonstrated that Haleakala Trail was a continuation of a long-established native Hawaiian trail, which connected to an overland pass across East Maui through Haleakala Crater. Westerners began ascending Haleakala Trail long before the Mahele of 1848.

Later, the government significantly improved Haleakala Trail through two major public work projects, by the Kingdom of Hawai‘i in 1889 and by the Territory of Hawai‘i in 1905. In 1905, a Maui News article celebrated the improvements to Haleakala Trail, trumpeting that:
 “It will be of general interest to the people of the Islands to learn that the Haleakala trail is now completed to the top of the crater... Come one; come all: and view this the grandest sight of Maui.” 

Also, in 1905, guideposts were placed along the trail at approximately every 500 feet. Schmitt explained that many of these guideposts still stand today and were crucial pieces of evidence for the jury to consider.

Brown said that the next and final phase of the trial will determine the issues remaining in the case—namely historic preservation of Haleakala Trail and securing meaningful public access. Emphasizing the importance of this final phase of trial, Brown explained,
“We have a moral obligation to protect Hawai‘i’s past, including its rich history of trails. The longer we wait to protect Hawai‘i’s cultural legacy, the greater the risk it will be lost forever for generations to come.”

PATH is a 501(c)(3) public charity. Its mission is “building community ties by connecting people and places through trails, urban paths and bikeways.” PATH’s website is www.pathmaui.org, and the organization also maintains Facebook and Twitter accounts. At trial, PATH was represented by attorneys Tom Pierce, Peter Martin and Hayden Aiuli.
 PATH is requesting continued financial support from the public to protect the historic Haleakala Trail, as well as general supporters and members. Charitable donations are fully tax-deductible and may be made to:

 2525 Kahekili Highway
Wailuku, Hawaii 96793.

To contact the organization, send an email to pathmaui@gmail.com.

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: The Ala Loa Trail 4/10/14
View of Lepeuli Beach from the Ala Loa Trail on Kauai's Koolau northshore.
Ea O Ka Aina: Trails and Tribulations 2/26/13
They walked from their settlements in Lepeuli to other Kauai ahupua'a along the ala loa trail, a lateral, coastal trail that runs along near the sea.

Ea O Ka Aina: Mokoaa Bay Ranch For Sale 6/24/11
Moloaa Bay Ranch Is For Sale!! Let the buyer be aware of the Alaloa Trail. By Hope Kallai on 23 June 2011 for Free Larson's ...

Ea O Ka Aina: Illegal fence blocks Lepeuli beach 6/14/11
We believe this fence is in the Conservation District and blocks the lateral coastal Alaloa. This project is federally funded through NRCS EQIP ...

Ea O Ka Aina: Not Saved from Paradise Ranch 1/21/11Paradise Ranch began installing fenceposts in the middle of the ancient coastal Alaloa on 1/19/11, as part of their cattle pasture expansion ...

Ea O Ka Aina: Kaakaaniu Beach in Danger 11/10/09
Blue lines are Na Ala Hele & Na Alaloa paths (l. and r.). Yellow is existing cattle fence above the albatross nesting areas. Source Juan Wilson.

Ea O Ka Aina: OHA against Lepeuli changes 5/9/10 Moreover, there seems to be disagreement between the applicant and the community regarding the exact location of the alaloa...

Ea O Ka Aina: Keep Kaakaaniu Beach Access 10/29/09
Exhibit D in the CDUA notes the State of Hawaii's claims of ownership of the historic coastal trail – the Hawaiian Alaloa.


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