Disputing path to beach access

  • Sabrina Bodon / The Garden Island

    A group of residents including Native Hawaiians and Surfrider Foundation were cleaning up a path for beach access when police were called for property damage.

‘ALIOMANU — Police were called on a group clearing a path commonly used for beach access that crosses private property yesterday.

A group of about 20 people were pushing aside green waste debris about 2 feet high consisting of palm fronds and tree trunks when Kaua‘i Police Department officers responded to a call of property damage.

This has been a long-standing issue at the end of ‘Aliomanu Road, which Native Hawaiian and neighbors say they have the right to trek through to allow for beach access for fishing and gathering.

This group has been out about four times in recent history clearing green waste, and even a mesh fence, to gain beach access. Over the weekend, more waste had appeared, blocking the path. Residents mobilized, organizing a clean-up of the path Tuesday morning.

Councilmember Mason Chock arrived around 9 a.m. and was approached by the tenants who requested he leave.

Around 10 a.m., members of the Kaua‘i chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, Native Hawaiians and neighbors came out in more force to finish the job. The tenants, who would not comment for this story, again came out to request the group stop or police would be called.

By 10:25 a.m., KPD officers had arrived and asked the group to leave the premise or show proof that they were allowed on the property. At this point, clearing the path stalled. KPD was not able to provide a summary report of the call, yesterday.

Nalani Kaneakua and Chock intervened to speak with KPD officers on the side, effectively de-escalating the situation.

“This pathway has been in question for many years,” Chock said.

Over two years ago, the county considered buying the property through the county Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Fund Commission, but that fell through because the county who need to then maintain the historical house on the property in addition to the beach access, according to a Garden Island Newspaper article from last year.

In April 2019, the property at 5032 C ‘Aliomanu Road was up for sale and the path was going to be closed. About 20 years ago, the property owner allowed a neighbor to use the pathway to gain beach access, and then more people began using it. Neighbors said potential buyers of the house were scared away last year, and the sale fell through.

Kaneakua uses this path daily, commonly bringing students to monitor the limu indigenous to this area.

“Public access cannot — and should not — be denied,” Kaneakua said. “We come in good faith. I work for the kupuna.”

Private property and no trespassing hang on trees along the path. There is also a bright orange line citing property lines. There is a legal isn’t a legal public-use accessway to the beach in that area, but Hawaiian gathering rights allow users to gain access to the beach.

Hawai‘i state laws, in addition to protecting the right to beach access, also gives access to walk up to the highest level of streamflow. At this site, the trail is against the stream that splits ‘Aliomanu Road.

Chock explained that there’s a bigger picture, too, that speaks to what the property owner is doing.

“This landowner was willing to drop his trash onto a stream bed pathway for his own motives of obstructing native Hawaiians from accessing the ocean for hunting and gathering,” Chock said. “This doesn’t have to happen in 2020 during a pandemic where neighbors should be supporting and helping each other. This beautiful pathway, with its previous owner, has been maintained by the community and never been abused as it was this week.”

The land access dispute, Chock said, would have to go to court to “protect people’s rights when all it really needs is a willingness to listen and work together towards a resolution.”

“For generations, this divide between the have and have nots continues to grow without enough recourse,” he said.

Barbara Widener, vice-chair and co-coordinator for beach cleanup and net patrol for Surfrider, said it’s more than just being able to use this path for beach clean up. Her group stands for ensuring the ocean waters are safe and clean, as well as being stewards for the rights of the Native Hawaiian community.

There is another public access point to the same beach on Kukuna Road, but residents have another reason for the importance of this specific path.

Mason Cawley, who lives in the neighborhood, said that when emergency services are called, they park in his driveway because the tight turn of Kukuna Road is too tight and utilize the ‘Aliomanu path.

Cawley, taken to clearing the path a few times on his own in recent months.

“None of us are really happy about this,” he said.

About a half an hour later, KPD officers again requested the group back-up to county property, but the path was cleared and all was well, Kaneakua said.

“We’re just here for our rights as Hawaiians to clear the path so we can access the beach,” Kaneakua said.

  1. Robert Gordon August 19, 2020 4:25 am Reply

    Beach access is vital to everything Hawaii stands for and the people!!

  2. Roberto Zamora August 19, 2020 8:08 am Reply

    The Hawai’ian people have been abused long enough by having their country forcefully stolen from them. Long live the Hawai’ian people and may they be treated with the respect their admirable culture deserves.

  3. Judy gardner August 19, 2020 9:29 am Reply

    Now thats what John Lewis calls Good Trouble. Good for those folks who took it upon themselves to clear the path. And thanks to mason chock for being tight there w them.

  4. Ron August 19, 2020 10:34 am Reply

    Beach should never be blocked

    1. Mike L. August 20, 2020 2:00 pm Reply

      Amen to that!

  5. Tuna Tony August 19, 2020 11:47 am Reply

    Access to the beach is an honored tradition that will not be thrown aside.

  6. Access Willy August 19, 2020 12:06 pm Reply

    It’s only those who know the land owners that get access, Its important have access to many places to share w your Kids and families. There are few people who have exclusive access to private property crossings to the mountains from the n shore and other parts of the island, to places they never want any anyone to go because it’s paradise. They believe that other people even locals will destroy it and ruin it if others are let in and that is true.
    Exclusive rights for those who are connected. Never a big deal for them. But try to take your kid bass fishing on a lake or pond wait most are private, access shoreline fishing spots, no can, get up to the mountains from Kilauea farms or Guava Kai, no can, all private estates that butt up to the beaches or mountains just like the secrets access on Kauapea.
    Imagine if the county years ago bought some nice land for the people to expect some growth in population, plenty kids born every year on Kauai and less places to go.
    We keep losing, views, access, cool spots, we will lose the sunset view from the path to the light house because of some big hedge on a multi million dollar property the county should have bought years ago before the TV real estate shows. It will only get more crowded and we need our county to buy more property for open space and access, it’s very very important. The more people use it for the good the better it will be valued and in the long run better maintained. Sry don’t want to take private access and paradise from anyone just want to share a little with the generations.


  7. LTEreader August 19, 2020 12:44 pm Reply

    “Neighbors said potential buyers of the house were scared away last year, and the sale fell through.”

    Meanwhile, here’s what a quick search netted:

    Realtor.com – Property Overview – 5032 C Aliomanu Rd, Anahola, HI 96703 is a single family home built in 1924. This property was last sold for $1,900,000 in 2019.

    County of Kaua’i Public Record:
    Living Area: 646 sq.ft.
    Land Area (acres) 1.3930
    Sale Date: 03/29/2019 $1,900,000
    86 S MAIN ST


    And, this from last year which seems like the sellers didn’t mind for 21 years, but the buyers, and realtor Robb Wall do…


  8. Stephen Frank August 19, 2020 1:29 pm Reply

    Why is it our Police must know county, state, and federal laws but seem to fail when it comes to native Hawaiian rights and laws that are in our state constitution? Our police, all property owners, as well as all visitors to these islands should be educated on the special rights and laws that Native Hawaiians possess.
    I keep hearing about “rules of laws” being broken. These same laws and rules never take into effect the disregard of Hawaiian rights.
    This owner putting rubbish in the pathway–that’s pilau. I have gone with Nalani to replace limu in that area before. People like Nalani and the Surfrider foundation are trying to take care of the ‘āina. People who are giving back instead of taking should be thanked not hindered.

    The owners of the property should be fined.
    Reminds me of the rich owners of Kailuana Loop in Kailua, O’ahu ( where Obama used to spend his holidays). The owners there have put up metal gates with locks in the public access ways to keep locals from using them.

    It is sad that so many just take from our islands with no intention of ever giving back. We all need to learn to give back to our communities and the places we visit.

    Thank you Mason, Nalani and all those people who came out to help clear the path.

    Mason , maybe you can get our council to pass a bill to require the Public be educated on Native Hawaiian rights and laws. Another idea could be having visitors and residents perform community service to better appreciate this beautiful place that we call home.

    Stephen Frank

  9. Tim Johnson August 19, 2020 11:06 pm Reply

    In the 20+ years I’ve lived on Kaua’i, I’ve seen this problem grow. Folks move here never bothering to learn the culture or traditions. This is further exacerbated by realtors who fail to inform the purchasers, more concerned about that fat commission. They sell the illusion of a “private beach”. The county needs to guarantee beach access. Maybe a paper needs to be signed before recording the sale.

  10. Rich January 18, 2021 4:06 pm Reply

    The law is the law. Access to the Ocean and to Rivers is underpinned by legal rights. It us case of Caveat Emptor. If the buyer’s agent is negligent in informing the buyer of existing littoral and riparian rights on Land in the State of Hawai’i then that should be between the buyer and their agent. It is unfortunate that money talks and Hawai’i politicians are wary of upsetting the “Baronial” dreams of California millionaires. The Police in the State need to know the law however the problem comes when contrasting rights need interpretation and for that you need lawyers. It would make life simpler if legislation to establish the primacy of these littoral and riparian rights were to be passed so there is less political pressure on the forces if Law and Order to place the rights of the wealthy and malahini over those of Hawaiians who are after all Kama’aina.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.