Public has a historical right to Haleakala Trail

In the Oct. 13 Viewpoint, Haleakala Ranch Co.’s chief executive officer asserts the community’s needs to be balanced against the ranch’s needs when it comes to Haleakala Trail. What is balanced depends on the facts.

Some of the facts are these: The ranch chose to buy land with a public trail running right through the middle of it. Haleakala Trail was the Hawaiians’ main route to the crater long before the ranch was ever around. It was also the overland route from Makawao to Kaupo used by Hawaiians and by westerners, who could travel it sometimes in one day.

The law on the books, dating all the way back to 1892, confirms the public’s right on old public roads and trails. The law clearly states that old trails and roads are state land unless they are expressly relinquished by the government.

The State of Hawaii agrees with me and other plaintiffs, including Public Access Trails Hawaii, that the Hawaii government never relinquished its interest in Haleakala Trail. Moreover, both the Kingdom of Hawaii and the Territory of Hawaii spent public money maintaining and improving Haleakala Trail.

Currently there is a resurgence of interest in hiking. If Haleakala Trail is once again made freely open to the public, it is likely it can be connected to existing trails in Haleakala National Park. Those trails continue to connect all the way to Kaupo. Then, once again, we can all walk the entire length of this culturally and historically rich trail.

Ken Schmitt