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City threatens golf course with closure over Maunawili trail access

  • BRUCE ASATO / BASATO@STARADVERTISER.COM

    A hiker jumps off the rocks into the pond at Maunawili Falls in Maunawili, Windward Oahu.

City officials are threatening to close the Royal Hawaiian Golf Club unless its owner improves access to the popular Maunawili Falls Trail.

Art Challacombe, acting director of the Department of Planning and Permitting, said in a letter today that HRT Realty LLC must come up with a plan for the improvements by June 1 and complete them by October, or risk losing the 20-year-old conditional use permit that allows the Kailua golf course to operate.

The 18-hole course and clubhouse are on 420 acres of agriculturally zoned land and, under previous ownership, had been known as the Luana Hills Golf Club.

The department is giving the owner the option of closing the trail temporarily while discussions take place with stakeholders on a plan to allow continued access while addressing concerns raised by residents in the adjacent Maunawili Estate community.

The growing popularity of the trail has been accompanied by an increasing amount of complaints from residents about hikers who illegally park, trespass and relieve themselves in their yards.

“We don’t want to temporarily close the trail, but we have to address the concerns of the residents who are forced to put up with disruptive activity in their neighborhoods on a daily basis,” Challacombe said in a news release.

“The city supports the reopening of the trail under improved access conditions,” DPP said in the release. It wants HRT Realty to not only reopen the trailhead, but to then maintain and manage the access point, the release said.

In February, DPP held a public hearing on a plan to nullify the trail access requirement and allow the owner to close the trailhead. Testimony was overwhelmingly in support of closing the trail, the city said.

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  • It seems easy to me. Close the trail. If that’s what the majority wants, then close it. The golf course can run, the Maunawili residents are happy.
    The hikers have become a nuisance. Time to say Ba Bye!

  • Why does the city have to incur costs when hikers fail to demonstrate due consideration for residents in the area? If they cannot understand that it is their obligation to respect private property and demonstrate respect for the aina, then the trail should be closed. So simple.

  • Close the trail like the stairway to heaven. Arrest anyone who trespass. These hikers don’t give a rip. They lucky I don’t live there. You mess up my property you WILL pay the consequences.

  • Mariner’s Ridge, Sacred Falls, Hanauma Bay Ridge, Kamehame ridge, Mt. Kaala – These are all hikes that should be open and readily available to anyone who wants to hike on the island (i.e., the public) – all of these wonderful hikes have been either curtailed or banned due to private land holders who actually claim that they somehow own a mountain – how ludicrous is this – as this trend continues- is it any wonder that more and more hikers are concentrated onto the fewer and fewer trails that are not banned ( we will have fewer than 12 public hiking trails if this trend continues).

    Just as we are all allowed into the ocean by our state constitution, the public should be allowed to enjoy the beauty of the aina that is Oahu without private entities claiming some false sovereignty over what all humans should be allowed to enjoy- when developers pack a public meeting with testimony to close a trail, there is always someone there who is trying to profit off of our access to our own aina and using disgruntled homeowners as pawns.

    • You have a right to hike public lands, that’s what your saying? Seems like you’re also saying that you have a right to trespass on other peoples property, use their yard as your toilet, there hose as your shower? Because that’s what these hikers on Maunawili are doing. If you hikers were respectful of those private property owners along the way to the access point this would not be an issue. You brought this on yourselves! Pat yourself on the back. You deserve it.

      • He’s not saying anything of the kind. Those are two entirely separate issues and your clueless attempt to conflate them makes a mockery of your commenting name. All those trails were open for decades. Hiking them is an established use that must be permitted; any abuses need to be addressed separately.

        • It is one thing to allow access. It is another thing for the street in front of the house you paid good money for to turn into a spectacle. Thanks to television and the internet, quiet places were turned into the equivalent of Waikiki Beach. Only way to control the situation is to declare the entire area private and restricted to residents only or put up gates. Refer to what was happening in Lanikai before roadside parking was prohibited. Then again, once that happened, the neighborhood turned into a ghost town. No guests no visitors, everyone stay out. I hope no one there has family that wants to visit. No parking.

  • I can understand. Too many people full of “ainokea”. Rowdy, messy, and totally disrespectful. It is not just the tourists. I have to ask how many people would like commotion and people leaving trash outside of their property. The photo for the article tells me plenty. Someone must not care about very much to jump off of a high rock into a shallow pond.

  • Those that like da trail closed are the residents of the area that want to keep the public far away from their homes. Provide parking and improve the trial so it is safe and convenient. We need to look to NZ as an example on how to maintain access and trails.

  • Hikers can still access the falls from the other trail on the Pali Highway. No neighbors there to disturb. Or people can do it like I did decades ago – Take the Maunawili shuttle bus. I don’t think the golf course should be held hostage to create a parking lot for hikers and I can understand the residents concerns.

  • It’s really important to keep trails like Maunawili open. The city is doing the right thing. The behavior of the golf course is ridiculous. They are sitting on a huge amount of undeveloped land that contains numerous historic sites that should be preserved and open to visitors.

  • I’m confused. Isn’t the Luana Hills Golf Course off Auloa Rd., and nowhere near the Maunawili Falls trailhead? The trail I’ve hiked to Maunawili Falls begins nowhere near ANY golf course, but there are several private residences near it where people park. It must be those residents who are the principal complainants. How can the City threaten to close a golf course that’s not even near the affected area??

    • I believe what the article is saying is that the golf course was supposed to build parking for people that wanted to use the trail, and it was an integral part of the permitting process to be able to use the lands as a golf course. If the golf course had done what they were supposed to the residents wouldn’t have had all these problems.

  • The issue here is neither closing Maunawili Trail nor “improving” it, but providing for access. The trail long pre-exists both the golf course and Maunawili Estates and must not be permanently closed.

    The golf course has denied access to the trailhead. This is what has caused hikers to use an alternative route that burdens the adjacent residents of Maunawili Estates. Those residents indeed deserve relief, but closing the trail is an improper and unjust remedy.

    I was concerned initially that HRT Realty might be yet another foreign corporation. Not so, although it keeps a low profile and detailed info is scarce. Its president, Alvin Awaya, is also president of 300 Corporation (another realty business that shares the same Waialae Ave address) as well as an officer of the locally well-known Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation. I’m sure he can be counted on to do the right thing.

    Most likely the underlying issue is that, like so many other Hawaii trails that we local hikers have enjoyed forever, there’s information all over the internet. That cat’s out of the bag, unfortunately.

    But I repeat, closing the trail permanently would be an unfair and inappropriate solution. That was tried with one of my favorite childhood trails, unnamed then but now called the Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail. The courts prevented its closure and established hikers’ right to access it. A similar outcome is necessary for Maunawili, one that protects adjacent residents while assuring ongoing trailhead access.

  • City bureaucrats are trying hard to put the blame for their failure to do their jobs on a private business. Make them pay for all the areas city bureaucrats have wasted the money away.

    And lets not forget, Royal Hawaiian Golf Club could tell the city to go pound sand, shut down, go away. Then what will city bureaucrats do? Who will they blame next?

    • This is all caused by the screwy access laws. If the City or State mandates access, they must not allow private property to take away that access and the City or State must provide facilities. Unfunded mandates are a road to trouble. An example of this is the requirement for beach access. The way I see it, City lets people build a house where the beach is literally their back yard, then City makes those same people accommodate strangers, and does not provide facilities. Two ways to fix this. One is to condemn some properties and turn them into parking areas with facilities. Two is to respect the property rights of the owners. Constantly putting property owners at odds with visitors is not working.

  • This is pretty bad. The City can’t get anything done on time, ever, and it gives the golf course a few months to solve a problem the City can’t solve at any other location?

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