Determining location of Ala Loa trails no easy task

The Star-Advertiser’s editorial on February 20, “Locate, preserve old Hawaii trails” accurately stated that the state, through the Department of Land and Natural Resources, is tasked with daunting detective work to verify the twists and turns of these paths, which over time have been largely erased by land use and nature.

Such is the case with an Ala Loa trail that has been the focus of significant media attention on Kauai and across the state, due to its proximity to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s property. A great deal of research has been conducted on the historical alignment of this trail by the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife and its Na Ala Hele trails access program and by the Aha Moku program.

It is clear that under the 1892 Highways Act DLNR has jurisdiction over the Ala Loa trail in this area, as well as all other Ala Loa trails statewide, wherever they actually were located. What is not clear, despite extensive research and staff time, is the original alignment of this trail. Historic maps indicate it is located farther inland than some believe; yet some insist the trail is closer to the coast.

Regrettably, when research relies on maps and documents that are more than 100 years old, it is extremely difficult to discern the actual location of a trail. In written testimony I provided before the House Committee on Ocean, Marine Resources and Hawaiian Affairs on House Bill 0120, I wrote: “Establishment of the existence and actual location of an ala loa on the ground is a matter of extensive and careful review of evidence in historical documents and other records and sources.”

Research to positively identify alignment can take months and even years, as there is no guarantee, given the age of the trail, potential lack of written records, etc., that a specific trail’s alignment can be determined, nor that a favored trail alignment will turn out to be the historical Ala Loa alignment.

DLNR must follow established state laws and statutes in regards to determining ownership of land and property. We remain committed to working with all stakeholders in identifying the true alignment of the Kauai Ala Loa trail.

Contrary to statements made by some, we do not currently know the exact location of this trail. We encourage anyone who has personal knowledge, historical documents or maps that might help determine the trail’s original alignment to share that information with DLNR.

Our research is ongoing and includes continuing dialog with lineal descendants of the area, Aha Moku representatives, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation and interested community members.

We wish this were simply a matter of looking at a map and saying, “OK this is the trail’s alignment.” Unfortunately, this is no easy task but we are committed to seeing this through.

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Suzanne Case is chair of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

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