Will the State of Hawaii Restore Public Access to Haleakala Trail?

Haleakala has long been revered as one of the most sacred sites in all of Hawaii.  Here, it is said, that the demigod Maui lassoed the sun, and the goddess Pele once made her home.  Here also lies a culturally significant trail, now being heavily disputed.

For centuries, Hawaiians have visited this wahi pana (sacred place) to meditate, conduct cultural and spiritual practices, and seek spiritual wisdom.  One of the primary paths – the original route – was Haleakala Trail.  The trail is held by the state and should be accessible for all to continue to enjoy.  But three miles and Haleakala Ranch are standing in the way, preventing us from walking in the footsteps of our ancestors.

For the past 70 years, Haleakala Ranch has denied the public access to a three-mile stretch of the trail that passes over their property.  Although the trail is within the National Park and owned by the state, the Ranch has successfully prevented the public from crossing over the property, thus making the Haleakala Trail pilgrimage impossible.

Public Access Trails Hawaii (PATH) believes we have waited long enough.  The time has come to reclaim the trail and the right to ascend the path of those who came before us.  Dave Brown, a founding board member of PATH asks, “How long does the state expect us to wait before it decides to take action? We have a right to walk this trail during our lifetime” (Source)

In February, PATH brought a class action lawsuit against Haleakala Ranch, in which the state of Hawaii is named a defendant.  PATH claims both Haleakala Ranch and the state of Hawaii are guilty of preventing meaningful cultural use of the trail; the Ranch has denied public access to the trail and the state has failed to restore that access.

If the state has legal ownership over the trail, why have they not stepped up, resolved the issue, restored access, and preserved an important pilgrim path?

Public Access Trails Hawaii and many other residents are wondering the same.  Even more shocking than the state’s failure to step in is their request for dismissal of PATH’s lawsuit.  Earlier this month, Deputy Attorney General, William Wynhoff, asked a 2nd Circuit Court judge to dismiss the case, claiming that PATH does not have the right to “dictate which disputes the state should expend its limited resources on and how disputed issues should be addressed or settled”.

The hearing is set for May 11, 2011.  In the meantime, PATH is rallying residents and urging those who want to see Haleakala Trail reopened to contact Governor Abercrombie and let him know you support PATH’s lawsuit and the public right to access this sacred trail.