SB2728 – Removes legal protections of public trails

Maui Group sent this testimony to the House Finance Committee:

We encourage members to email opposing SB2728.

Maui Sierra Club requests that you kill SB2728. On Maui Public Access Trails Hawai’i (PATH) is in litigation to open a public trail that Haleakala Ranch is attempting to co-opt and close to the public. Maui Sierra Club supports PATH’s efforts to preserve this and other public rights of way.

One of the last bills signed into law by Queen Liliuokalani before the overthrow of the Hawaiian Government was the Highways Act of 1892. It remains on the books today in the form of Hawai‘i Revised Statutes 264-1(b). Through the Highways Act, the legislature of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i declared that any trail or other thoroughfare open, laid out or built by the government, or surrendered or abandoned by a land owner, was a public trail and owned by the government in fee simple. The ownership stays with the government forever, or until a resolution expressly giving up the trail is passed by the legislature. Large landowners, like Haleakala Ranch Company, are now wielding their substantial money and power to change the law through SB2728 and remove these public trails from the public.

SB2728 purports to “clarify that the legislature has the authority to determine a public trail.” This innocuous title is entirely misleading. The bill, if passed, would almost certainly mean the end to any ancient trail ever being made public ever again. In short, the bill is a free ride for large landowners–many who purchased properties in the 1800s knowing that they were encumbered by public trails. If this bill were to pass, every large landowner can almost be assured that the trails have become their private domain forever.

The Highways Act is working well and should not be changed at the behest of large landowners like Haleakala Ranch and Alexander & Baldwin.

Please kill this bill.