LIHU‘E — Lepe‘uli Beach, commonly called Larsen’s, has taken center stage over the past couple years because of a controversial fence that finally went up about three weeks ago, blocking off the easiest access to the narrow strip of sand on the North Shore.
But an alleged assault in the area last month has overshadowed the fence debate since its installation.
Jesse Reynolds, a 28-year-old farm worker, has filed a police report apparently naming Paradise Ranch owner Bruce Laymon as the man who beat him up and tried to throw him off a cliff on the night of May 21.
The rumor mill has run rampant with the allegation for the past three weeks. Ascertaining the truth of the matter, however, has been difficult given the fact that the police won’t release the report and the supposed accuser has been unreachable for comment.
Laymon, who leases from Waioli Corporation the 500-plus-acre property fronting Larsen’s Beach, claims the Kaua‘i Police Department has confirmed his alibi.
“He’s lying,” Laymon said of Renolds’ allegation against him.
Laymon said Reynolds, a man with no known address, was probably living in the valley facing Lepe‘uli.
On May 21, Laymon and several others erected along the property a fence approved by the county Planning Department. Some residents have challenged this approval, arguing that the conditions of the Special Management Area permit apply.
Reynolds’ associates say Laymon beat up the farm worker between 9:30 and 10 p.m. that day. Laymon, however, says he left the property at 3:30 p.m.
Laymon said he was out with a friend having dinner at a Wailua restaurant until 9:30 p.m. From there they went to a new pub near the county jail in Wailua, where they stayed until 10:30 p.m. Then they went to a popular bar in Waipouli to listen to live music.
“I didn’t get home until 11:30 (p.m.),” he said.
Despite saying he was assaulted that Saturday night, Reynolds waited until Monday to file a complaint with KPD.
But on Sunday morning, he apparently returned to the area. Laymon said he set up security cameras on the property, which supposedly show Reynolds on the property.
Laymon said Reynolds told a guy who does pig eradication on the property that he had been beaten the prior night by “three natives.”
“His stories don’t jive,” Laymon said. “They have the prosecutors look at it, they questioned me, they questioned the people that I was with that night, and I wasn’t anywhere near there.”
He added that no trespassing signs had apparently been removed by the morning of May 22.
When Reynolds filed a report on May 23, the police asked him why he didn’t have any “visual signs,” which he replied by saying, “I’m in good shape, I’m a fast healer,” according to Laymon.
Attempts to reach Reynolds on his cell phone were unsuccessful. A message said he “is not accepting calls at this time.”
County spokeswoman Sarah Blane said KPD confirmed Reynolds filed a police report on May 23.
“Details of the report are unavailable at this time due to it being an active, ongoing investigation,” she said.
A letter circulating on the Internet about two weeks ago stated that, “On Friday, May 13, 2011 a full-on fence assault began on Waioli Corporation lands in Lepe‘uli by Bruce Laymon and his Paradise Ranch crew. Camps on the beach were shot and beachgoers were beaten without explanation.”
Such claims were vehemently denied by Laymon.
“Nobody is shooting at them,” he said. “Plus they were not camping at the beach, they were camping in the valley.”
Laymon said that on the day the fence was put up, he and others, including KPD officers, went down in the valley and found 10 to 15 illegal tents. In the tents they found drug paraphernalia, computers and food-stamp cards.
On a clean-up conducted last year, when five truckloads of trash were hauled off the property, Laymon said he found a loveseat that had been stolen from one of the houses in the area. It was perched up on a hill and covered with a tarp. He said he also found carts from Foodland supermarket in Princeville.
“That’s why they like that thing open, so they can carry their coolers, they can carry their things inside there,” Laymon said of the path that is now blocked off by the fence.
On May 21, Laymon said he and others found so much rubbish in the area that they will probably need another five truckloads to remove it all.
“Nobody is hauling off the rubbish,” he said. “I have no sympathy for anybody that’s thinking that it would be unfair because we’re not letting people go down that road.”
On the day the fence was being erected, Laymon said he confronted a man walking inside the private property and carrying a baseball bat. It was the second time Laymon had seen the man inside the property and the man apparently got upset when told to leave.
His car was parked at the public parking lot. “Instead of going slow, he just pulled up and peeled in the parking lot,” said Laymon, adding that the man barely missed hitting two children. One of the children told Laymon the driver missed him by one foot.
The police questioned the man, who said the children were “blocking the way,” according to Laymon.
“Those are the kind of things that don’t sit well with people over here,” Laymon said.
On Sept. 1, 2009, then-county Planning Director Ian Costa signed a permit authorizing Paradise Ranch to build a fence on the lands which apparently include the entrance to the controversial parallel access to Lepe‘uli.
The location is reportedly agricultural-zoned land, with a Special Management Area overlay. Agricultural-zoned lands do not necessarily require a permit for fencing, but Paradise Ranch sought and obtained the county permit because of the SMA overlay.
The parallel access to Lepe‘uli is believed by many to be part of the Alaloa, an ancient trail that goes around the entire coast of Kaua‘i.
The fence location still preserves the public access to and along the steeper, lateral coastal trail owned by the county.
One of the conditions of the county permit was that the location of the fence was subject to approval by the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and Na Ala Hele, Hawai‘i’s trail and access program.
On Sept. 9, 2009, Na Ala Hele said there may be a historical trail that once traversed the property, but the government did not make a claim for any trails through the property when the land was registered in the Land Court system in 1943.
On Feb. 16, 2010, Laura Thielen, then-chair of the DLNR, unilaterally approved a permit for Paradise Ranch to fence off the property it leases from Waioli Corporation, a nonprofit tasked with managing and preserving the land.
Kaua‘i resident Linda Sproat, represented by the Native Hawaiian Legal Council, plus Surfrider Foundation and Malama Moloa‘a appealed Thielen’s decision. They requested a contested case hearing, but were denied.
Last December Thielen was replaced as chair by William Aila Jr.
In the first week of January the state Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands recommended the Board of Land and Natural Resources grant its request for a contested case hearing.
On Jan. 10, the attorney for Paradise Ranch sent a letter to the BLNR communicating that the ranch would surrender its permit due to the long and costly legal battle. Three days later, the BLNR voided the permit.
A few days after the BLNR’s decision, beachgoers saw workers erect two metal posts by the entrance of the parallel access and community members renewed their concern over the access. Laymon denied the posts were for a fence; instead, he said they were to delineate the property.
However, Laymon said he would still build a fence. On May 23, Paradise Ranch erected a fence effectively blocking the entrance to the lateral trail.
Laymon said he built the fence outside the conservation district, meaning he no longer needed state approval.However, some community members contest this claim, saying the fence’s location is actually within the conservation district, thereby still necessitating a state permit.