Solution sought for permanent access to remote Kahili Beach at Kilauea

A landowner is considering donating to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service a five-acre beachfront parcel that leads to Rock Quarry Beach in Kilauea.

The donation is aimed at resolving a beach access issue.

Kilauea property owner Louise Zweben recently closed off the access road to Kahili Beach – an area commonly known as Rock Quarry Beach – located on her property because of concerns about trespassing, illegal camping, abandonment of vehicles and dumping.

Acquisition of the land by the Fish and Wildlife Service would open the way for protecting a heiau and gravesites that she says are located on the parcel.

As another option for the land, Zweben is considering a Kilauea Neighborhood Association proposal to allow vehicular use to the beach by request only.

The proposal calls for putting up a chain and lock across the head of the trail, and users, preferably longtime fishermen, would have access to the trail after securing the key to the lock from an association member, according to Dr. Gary Blaich, vice president of the neighborhood association. On leaving, they would lock up the chain and return the key to the association member, Blaich said.

He said the proposal seemed to be a “good compromise,” and that, far as he knew, Zweben liked the idea.

In an e-mail to The Garden Island, Zweben said she is collaborating with the Kauai Public Land Trust, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Kilauea Neighborhood Association to explore “a potential donation and restoration of this unique piece of property.”

The value of the property was not known, but Blaich said it is being appraised.

In considering options for her property, Zweben said her priority is to “improve safety conditions for people using Kahili Beach, to prevent development in the area and to preserve the land in perpetuity.”

Zweben is headed to China for two months, and said she would make a decision upon returning.

Her dirt road easement connects to a parking lot and runs about a quarter mile to the beach. The path has been used by residents for at least four decades and the beach is a popular site for fishing, camping and surfing.

Some area residents became alarmed about two weeks ago when boulders were placed in front of the pathway and a trench dug.

The work was apparently approved by Zweben, who was concerned about liability issues related to vehicular traffic on the easement through her property.

Victoria Dietrich, a Kilauea resident, said at one point at least one boulder was pulverized, other boulders were moved. The trench, about four feet in length, was refilled to allow continued vehicular traffic to the beach, she said.

The closure to vehicular access to the beach upset many residents because beach access is being lost across the island, Dietrich said. New landowners have closed up unofficial pathways and have called for enforcement of trespassing laws.

“We are losing places that we like to go to after working all week long,” Dietrich said. “Our beaches are becoming fewer and fewer.”

Dietrich said she was heartened to hear Zweben is open to keeping public access to Rock Quarry Beach in some form.

Vehicular traffic to the beach may be restricted in the future, but people can still walk through the property to get to the beach.

Mike Hawkes, refuge manager for Fish and Wildlife refuges located in Hanalei, Kilauea and along the Huleia River, said he has contacted Zweben about the potential donation of the five acres to the federal agency.

“We are running this thing upstairs to our regional office in Portland,” Hawkes said. “And I expect a decision at any time.”

The donation would allow the federal agency to protect a heiau on the parcel and grave sites believed to be among the dunes, Hawkes said.

“It is private land, it has several historic grave sites and heiau, and locals are upset about people driving over the dunes,” Hawkes said.

Blaich said it was his understanding that Zweben was concerned about “preventing vehicles from going on the beach, especially reckless driving. That is happening, unfortunately, random time, nighttime, weekends and some weekdays.”

Residents are concerned reckless driving could damage Hawaiian historical finds and sites, Blaich said.

Hawkes said vehicular driving on beaches in Hawai‘i is against the law, and those who do so are breaking the law.

Hawkes said if the parcel became part of the federal wildlife complex, an environmental assessment would be in order, along with solicitation of public comment and public meetings on the use of the property.

Another way to continue to provide vehicular traffic to the site would be for the Fish and Wildlife Service to work with private landowners to rebuild a road mauka of the beach by the Kilauea refuge site, and to restore a launch area for small fishing boats, Hawkes said.

Blaich said the Kilauea Neighborhood Association Board voted on measures on Tuesday evening it hopes will help protect the five-acre parcel and provide continued vehicular access.

They include:

  • Management of the chain/lock system to allow motorists to offload small, recreational boats as close to the water as possible.
  • Verbal or written guidelines governing the use of chained access given to beach users.
  • Monthly reports to the association on the operation of the chain access plan.
  • Sponsoring or organizing quarterly cleanup of Kilauea, Kauapea Beach and Kalihiwai Beach.
  • Posting of signs.
  • Collaboration with government agencies, landowners and other entities over the management of the parcel.
  • Communication with the Fish and Wildlife Service, other government agencies, landowners and others on the improvement of Kilauea’s Rock Quarry Road.
  • Formation of a committee of volunteers from Kilauea to assist with the management of the 5-acre parcel and Kilauea Bay.

Jimmy Torio, a Native Hawaiian leader in Anahola, said he discussed the issue with Dietrich on his Kaua‘i-based radio show. He said a community-derived plan needs to be implemented, and residents must be active in helping to manage the property Zweben has proposed to donate.


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