Council discusses Hideaways access improvements
LIHU‘E — Two Kaua‘i County Council bills that passed first readings last Wednesday may appropriate up to $1.5 million to improve access to Hideaways, or Kaumumene Beach, in Princeville.
The secluded beach — which was once a holding area for Hawaiians with leprosy — is now heavily used by fishermen, surfers and tourists.
The unanimously passed bills would also allow the county to acquire the trail to the beach, which has been a matter of contention since 1975, when an easement intended to transfer the trail to the county was inaccurately drawn, leaving the path in the possession of Pu‘u Poa Condominiums.
In 2019, a tourist from California injured his hand on a rusted handrail while descending the trail and filed a claim against the County of Kauai and Pu‘u Poa. This suit has since been settled.
To avoid future liabilities, Pu‘u Poa, with the county’s permission, put up signs closing the trail in April 2021 and drafted a new easement that would convey the trail to the county at no cost.
“This is an opportunity for the folks in the community, visitors to the island, our owners and renters, to have safe passage to one of the most pristine beaches on the North Shore,” said Jeff Frank, president of the board of directors at Pu‘u Poa. “By doing nothing we would have to take measures to close beach access, which we do not want to do.”
The $1.5 million would be transferred from the Public Access, Open Space, Natural Resources Preservation Fund, as recommended earlier this year by the county’s Open Space Commission.
“I think that this is the best outcome that could occur out of the whole situation,” said Council Vice Chair Mason Chock. “I’m thankful that we can have (the easement) in perpetuity.”
The potential price tag is high, said Deputy Director of the Planning Department Jodi Higuchi Sayegusa, because the construction would need to be customized and the permitting process could potentially be extensive.
That being said, councilmembers expressed hope that the process would not require all of the funding.
“I think we should thank all of the people from the west to the north (on the island) because it is tax dollars that are going to be used for this trail,” said Councilmember Billy DeCosta.
Trail rehab could range from a $50,000 estimate to install concrete stairs to a $1.5 million estimate to install Trex paneling, similar to what is in place on the Uluwehi Falls Trail.
Key to those involved in trail-improvement discussions is balancing the current rugged character of the trail while making it less of a safety hazard.
“It can’t be cement and stainless-steel steps,” said Mike Lyons, one of several who have acted as caretakers for the trail for the last 30 years. “That will take a gigantic effort to get that in. Even though they’re weatherproof, they’ll still look ugly. They’re not rustic and appropriate to what our island is all about.”
Part of the rehab project would involve placing somebody in charge of continued stewardship and maintenance of the trail. Both Lyons and the environmental nonprofit Surfrider Foundation have expressed interest in.
Lyons advocated for better signage on the trail warning people about the dangers and about the fact that there is no lifeguard on duty.
“If in doubt, don’t go out,” he said.
The bills were referred to the Committee of the Whole and will go up for a public hearing on March 23.
Guthrie Scrimgeour, reporter, can be reached at 647-0329 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
I was the resident manager of Puu Poa for 4yrs in the 80s. My grounds keepers and me used to take some time to maintain the trail and clean the beach.