Posted by: lokahipath | July 9, 2010

Larsen’s Beach access divides community

County Council defers decision to accept easement

Larsen’s Beach access divides community

Léo Azambuja – The Garden Island | Posted: Wednesday, July 7, 2010 11:45 pm |

 buy this photo Contributed photo A trail leads down to Larsen’s Beach. The public is split over what access route the county should maintain.

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NAWILIWILI — The latest battle in the never-ending war for beach access on Kaua‘i pits several local families against each other.

A traditional and relatively easy access to Larsen’s Beach — a stunning strip of sand on the North Shore — cuts through a private property owned by Waioli Corp. and leased by Paradise Ranch.

“It’s very, very sensitive. You can see the division in this room, and it’s between local families,” Stewart Wellington said at a Kaua‘i County Council meeting Wednesday in Nawiliwili. He worked for seven years as a property manager at Waioli.

The county owns a side access to Larsen’s, but many community members say it’s unsafe.

After a site inspection months ago by Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. and other county officials, a solution was worked out between the landowner, the county and the lessee.

Waioli Corp. offered the county an easement near the existing county trail. The proposed easement is actually a trail that residents and tourists have been using for some time.

County Administrative Assistant Gary Heu said all the Kaua‘i County Council has to do is accept the easement from Waioli. The new trail, he said, is a lot easier to walk on than the existing trail, which he said hasn’t been maintained and is more appropriate for an adventurous person.

Some members of the community, however, are not in accord. They say the trail the county already owns, despite needing maintenance, is a much better and easier one to access the beach because it has switchbacks that allow it to run flatter than the one being offered by Waioli.

If any improvements are made to the trails, the county would have to add provisions in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, County Executive Assistant Beth Tokioka said. For this reason, the county has no immediate plans to improve any of the trails, she said.

Other community members just want Waioli to provide beach access via the trail cutting through its property. That trail runs parallel to Larsen’s and has many side-trails leading to the beach.

Some local families said it is part of an ancient historic trail called Alaloa, which supposedly circled the island.

Richard and Linda Sproat, together with their daughter Kapua Sproat, were among many community members who opposed the gift from Waioli. Instead, they want the corporation to open up access to the beach through Alaloa.

But attorney Don Wilson, representing Waioli, said although Alaloa might exist, it is not the same trail some residents claim it is and is probably located somewhere else farther away from the shoreline.

Paradise Ranch owner Bruce Layman had his own reasons to block the supposed Alaloa trail to residents.

“All our problems come from the lateral access,” he said.

Last March, Layman organized a beach cleanup that he said 150 people attended. In two hours they hauled five truckloads of trash off the beach.

Layman said a lot of the trash was left by illegal campers. Other beachgoers, he said, frequent the beach naked, apparently not caring that the beach is also frequented by families with kupuna and keiki.

Council members are worried about liability issues should they accept the gift from Waioli.

It was the liability associated with the community using the easement, plus a pending report from the state Board of Land and Natural Resources, that prompted the Planning Committee to defer the decision Wednesday on whether to accept the gift.

The BLNR had approved Paradise Ranch putting up a fencing surrounding the property, which would ultimately block the lateral access associated with Alaloa. Some community members appealed the decision, and the BLNR is supposed to present a report in the next six weeks.

Planning Committee Chair Jay Furfaro said the committee will revisit the issue on Aug. 25, even if the BLNR does not produce a report on time.

Wilson, however, could not guarantee that Waioli would keep the offer on the table after a deferral.

“You want the easement, take it. If you don’t, you don’t,” said Wilson, adding that it’s the second time the corporation has offered the land and they don’t want to drag the process through long meetings anymore.

Layman said his mother grew up together with the Sproats, and he was saddened to see the families divided by the issue.

Despite the passion showed by many residents in the overly crowded Council Chambers, Wellington’s testimony showed a positive side, regardless of the outcome.

“One thing I can assure you, is that aloha spirit will prevail. We will get it together; local people take care of local people,” Wellington said.

• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@kauaipubco.com.

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