HILO — A pedestrian trail that meanders from Kohala Lighthouse to recently acquired county land at Kapanaia Road now belongs to the public, with the County Council on Wednesday unanimously accepting an easement as part of a 2002 settlement agreement with a developer.
“It’s really a beautiful trail,” said attorney Thomas Yeh, representing Vipassana Hawaii, a nonprofit formed to promote meditation based in Buddhist traditions and the owner of one of the parcels.
The original agreement was between the county and developer Chalon International of Hawaii Inc. Landowners Vipassana and Inhabit LLC are fulfilling their commitments to the settlement, Yeh said. The settlement granted developers the right to subdivide their property.
The county last year accepted easements for a 10-foot wide trail running for more than 2,000 feet in Ainakea and a 1.7-acre roadway on property owned by the Charles A. Anderson Trust and Surety Kohala Corp., formerly Chalon International, as part of the same settlement agreement. The unpaved roadway gives mauka-makai access between Akoni Pule Highway and the top of Lighthouse Road, known locally as Halaula Mill Road.
“Most landowners like to push accesses out to the cliff edge, but if you look at the map, it’s actually significantly inland, so it really provides a very safe access for pedestrians,” Yeh told council members earlier this month. “It even anticipates climate change and possible erosion. I don’t think we’ll need to touch this for decades.”
The trail crosses the slopes created by the Halelua and Halewa gulches at a diagonal, to make traversing the gulches easier. It also avoids crossing historic sites.
The trail was created after input from the State Historic Preservation Division, the North Kohala Community Access Group and the Ala Kahakai Trails Access group.
Kohala Councilman Tim Richards praised the plan.
“This is all fitting in line with the direction of what that whole coastline is and the trails and all that,” Richards said. “We’re looking at 16 years in trying to get this thing perfected. … It makes sense for the community, it makes sense for the coastline, so everything is in line.”
The trail will not officially be opened to the public until the county is ready to implement certain provisions, including rules that limit the use of the trail to recreation, ban motor vehicles, hunting, fires and firearms as well as other rules to protect the shoreline. The trail will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p..m. under the agreement.