Online trail hike reservations proposed for Maui national park

WAILUKU — The State of Hawaii will consider a proposal to establish an online reservation system for guided hikes in a national park on Maui, officials said.

The Sierra Club Maui Group and Haleakala Ranch are partnering to build the reservation system for hikes on Haleakala Trail, The Maui News reported Tuesday.

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The state Board of Land and Natural Resources is expected to consider the proposal during a meeting in Honolulu Friday. The state Division of Forestry and Wildlife is working on a new agreement to allow public access to the trail while addressing concerns over safety and ranch operations.

The reservation system would set up scheduled hikes of up to 20 people conducted by trained, certified guides from the Sierra Club and the ranch, officials said.

The trail inside Haleakala National Park was the main access to the summit of Haleakala volcano before a road system was completed in 1935. A 3.3-mile section of the trail crosses land owned by Haleakala Ranch, which was incorporated in 1888.

Haleakala Ranch laid claim to the trail for many years and said public use would create safety concerns. Others believed the trail belonged to the state and should remain open to unregulated public access. The state and the ranch drew up an agreement providing guided hikes using a reservation system.

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The group Public Access Trails Hawaii and three individuals filed a class-action lawsuit challenging Haleakala Ranch’s claims of ownership in January 2011. A jury sided with the plaintiffs and the state.

The Board of Land and Natural Resources has since agreed to the ranch’s request to disregard the old agreement and establish a new arrangement.

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