PRINCEVILLE — Public access of the trail to Kenomene (Hideaways) Beach is on its way to officially being conveyed to the county.
Thursday, the Open Spaces Commission recommended authorization of up to $1.5 million to make the trail safer and more accessible, in addition to recommending purchasing of the easement. The Kaua‘i County Council will have the final say.
The issues surrounding this trail began over 40 years ago with a poorly drafted deed. The easement originally granted by the Princeville Cooperation to the county was meant to encompass the trail, but instead created an easement to another beach.
The trail became a matter of contention in 2019, when a tourist from California injured his hand on the path and filed a claim naming the County of Kaua‘i. The county reported that the trail was not legally conveyed to them, so the visitor refiled, naming The County of Kauai and Pu‘u Poa Condominiums. The case has since been settled.
To stop the threat of future liabilities, Pu‘u Poa, with the county’s permission, put up signs closing the trail in April.
A sign overlooking one of the more treacherous sections of the trail warns of its temporary closure due to dangerous conditions. But, the trail was still active Wednesday afternoon, with several families trying their luck on the steep path.
Resident Mike Lyons, who has been acting as an unofficial steward of the trail for the last 30 years, navigated the path to Kenomene.
“I’ve always been going down this trail to get to the beach since the ‘60s,” Lyons said. “It was always a spot for us locals. This is our gift, this is where we spend our time. We need to have access to it.”
When the trail was closed, he wrote to the local government officials to try to work out a solution and set the process of attaining an easement into motion.
Lyons carved steps into the slope to make the trail more manageable, but it still might prove difficult for some. At one point, the path drops sharply and ropes that Lyons installed are necessary for the navigation of soft dirt that becomes slippery in the rain.
Lyons hopes that the renovations can maintain the rugged character of the trail while making it safer, and hopes to maintain his stewardship of the land as it is brought under county control.
“It’s gotta be safe,” he said. “It’s gotta be approachable.”
Lyons, along with other community members spoke at the county’s Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Fund Commission meeting Thursday in support of the county acquiring and maintaining the land.
“It’s very important to my organization and myself that we maintain access to our beaches,” said Barbara Wiedner, the Vice-Chair of the environmental non-profit Surfrider, which delivered a petition which included 47 signatures from residents in support of the easement. “I stand with Mike Lyons and his plan to steward that trail.”
Lyons emphasized that there was a need to improve the parking situation on the beach, which now only has nine public parking spaces.
The commissioners agreed with the residents and voted unanimously to send the recommendation onward to the county council for its approval.
“What we see on the North Shore is that we’re being squeezed out of access,” said Commissioner Taryn Dizon. “So I am in 100% support of providing this safe beach access.”
The commission examined a set of cost estimates for the improvement of the trail ranging from $50,000 to $1.5 million, ultimately deciding to recommend $1.5 million in funding. According to the Deputy Director of the Planning Department Jodi Higuchi-Sayegusa, it would provide the most flexibility going forward.
“Hopefully, that cost will go down as the project goes along,” Higuchi-Sayegusa said.
Currently, the Open Space Commission has $3.1 million available to spend on this sort of project and any unused funds would be returned to its reserve account.
There was some discussion of different types of materials that could be used to renovate the trail, with Committee members and residents agreeing that a more natural solution would be preferred.
Guthrie Scrimgeour, reporter, can be reached at 647-0329 or firstname.lastname@example.org