Restrictions on Hawaii public land

SOURCE: Rayne Regush (
SUBHEAD: New law will make it that much easier to legally prohibit access to public trails.

By Debora Chang on 28 March 2017 in Island Breath -

Image above: Photo by Kaleo Lancaster of hike on Laie Ridge Trail on public land on Oahu, Hawaii. From (

Please take some time to read about this bill which is making its way through the legislature. I’m concerned that it could make many of us criminal trespassers if passed.

It is SB895 SD1 HD1 and here’s the link to the current version: See (

 I have also attached a PDF copy of it here: (

The bill is scheduled for a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee this Wednesday, March 29.

Unfortunately, I’ve been distracted with other concerns to pay much attention to the legislative session this year (like most of us who have jobs to do). I did see a Native Hawaiian testifying against this bill on the TV news a few weeks ago, which prompted me to take a closer look.

My concerns are not with the beginning part of the bill, but with the rather innocent-looking changes proposed at the latter part of the bill.

Beginning on p. 5, agricultural government property would be added to the list of offenses qualifying as criminal trespass in the second degree. While criminal trespass in the second degree is a “petty misdemeanor,” you end up with a criminal record if found guilty of such an offense.

The bill starts off making it a criminal trespass offense to enter on to closed “improved state land.” It describes lands that are clearly developed, fenced, signed, and closed to public access.

I don’t have a problem with such regulations over state harbors, highway baseyards, etc., although advocates of the homeless seem to be most concerned about this part of the bill.

Where the bill gets especially relevant to those of us who live in rural areas surrounded by vast, undeveloped agricultural lands, is from page 5 to the last page, where it proposes to amend Section 708-814 of the HRS.

Agricultural private lands have had this protection from trespassers in the law for some time. This bill would add government property to this protection.

The only requirement would be to post no trespassing signs at reasonable intervals and next to roads or trails entering the property.

My major concern is where historic Hawaiian trails exist on private lands. These trails, in many cases, are government property.

The Haleakala Trail, Judd Trail, Hookena-Kauhako Trail, several trails to Kaawaloa, and Kauai Ala Loa, are just a few historic trails that come to mind. These trails and many others are kept closed by the state for lack of “resources” to open them to the public. While they remain closed, they are vulnerable to being “lost” to neglect, becoming overgrown and unrecognizable, damage, and destruction.

This law will make it that much easier to legally prohibit access to trails that are public trails per the Highways Act of 1892.

Most people are respectful of keep out signs, and over time the knowledge that a public trail exists in that area will be lost.

Only Native Hawaiians will be able to legally access the public trails as part of customary practices, but posting a no trespassing sign at the trail is likely to discourage or intimidate Native Hawaiians too.

The law currently protects Native Hawaiian rights to use the trails – see Section 6 on the bill’s last page. Is this an acceptable approach where public trails are concerned?

Another important detail:  the Bill’s "Description" on the final page states that the criminal trespass offense applies to government agricultural property even though it may not be fenced or enclosed.

This clearly applies to historic trails, which are usually not fenced on both sides or otherwise enclosed.

The more I read this bill, the more deeply concerned I become. I urge you to email your concerns to the House Judiciary Committee members as soon as possible, if you share these concerns! Here’s the link to the committee that names the members: See (

If you want to send an email to them you can use this link: See (

There is a “Submit Testimony” button near the top. You will have to go through a sign in procedure before submitting your testimony.

Mahalo for your time and attention! If we don’t care, who will?

See also:
Ea O Ka Aina: Determining Kauai's Ala Loa Trail 2/18/17
Ea O Ka Aina: Kauai's Ala Loa Trail 11/6/15
Ea O Ka Aina: Haleakala Trail is public land 4/27/14
Ea O Ka Aina: The Ala Loa Trail 4/10/14
Ea O Ka Aina: Trails and Tribulations 2/26/13


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