A Trail Lost, and Found: Seventy-five years ago, folks on Maui traveled a brand new road to get to the summit of Haleakala. That highway, improved substantially in the intervening years, remains the route of choice for the thousands of tourists and residents who each day visit the spectacular sights that await at the crater rim and beyond.
And what of the old trail? It fell out of use, but still exists, and now some Maui residents are clamoring to reopen it. The group Public Access Trails Hawai`i (PATH) notes that some of Hawai`i’s most famous visitors – among them Mark Twain, Isabella Bird, Jack London – followed the trail to the crater rim.
Under Hawai`i law, the state owns all public roads and trails that existed when the Highways Act of 1892 took effect. “There is no direct evidence that the Haleakala Ranch Company erected a gate before 1915 or that they asserted ownership between 1888, when HRC purchased the land, and 1892,” the group says in a report on the trail’s history.
The state agrees. In 2000, an abstract by the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Na Ala Hele program concluded, “The government has not relinquished its interest in the subject trail.”
The ranch does not. It claims that when it acquired the land, there was no encumbrance for any trail or public right of way. In 2007, it suggested that members of the public wanting to use the trail might be given limited access “through an occasional scheduled hike that would be guided and managed by ranch staff.” A draft agreement was worked out between the state and the ranch in 2008, but PATH objected. Among other things, wrote attorney Tom Pierce, representing PATH, the agreement “only contemplates that a total of 50 people per year may possibly, but not for certain, be given the opportunity to hike some part of the” trail.
Forest Overhaul: Hui Ku Maoli Ola, LLC, once just a small, but popular, native plant nursery in Waimanalo, now has a 10-year state forest stewardship contract to restore 30 acres of mixed, non-native forest on Kamehameha Schools land in the Agriculture District of east O`ahu. The $873,100 project will be funded with $408,150 from the state forest stewardship program and $464,950 from Hui Ku Maoli Ola.
Alien species, including some invasive species, account for 98 percent of the property’s vegetation. Working in two- to six-acre increments, the company, with assistance from a long list of non-profit organizations and schools, plans to remove alien species and “complete a top-to-bottom restoration by installing [native] ground covers, shrubs and trees,” a report by the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry and Wildlife states. The company also plans to build more than a mile of trails to safely reach out-planting sites and for maintenance, education and recreation.
“Groups will be led on informational/educational tours by qualified individuals trained on Hawai`i’s environment and culture by [owners] Matthew Schirman or Rick Barboza,” the company’s proposal states.
According to Barboza, the project is different from the usual Forest Stewardship project where commodity-type forest trees are planted for harvest.
“It started because we have a lot of land that we’re leasing [in Kane`ohe]…The canopy is heavy with non-native tress that prohibit ground cover from growing and the runoff is really noticeable,” he says. To foster ground cover growth and control runoff, the company wanted to clear non-native trees then use replanted natives as stock plants.
“We’re the only [forest stewardship] awardees actually going to be out-planting strictly natives,” he says, adding that they’ll be planting species that would typically be growing in that watershed.
In addition to helping the environment and providing nursery stock, the project will also be a community resource, he adds. For example, he says, “We’re going to make plants available for hula halau…so they don’t have to impact [what’s left in the wild]. In exchange, the halau will help maintain the area.”
Community groups and schools will assist with maintenance and planting. “All of the clearing, the more dangerous work, will be left to my crew,” he says.
Volunteers already assist with stream bank and taro lo`i restoration elsewhere on the property, he says.
Although this is Hui Ku Maoli Ola’s first forest stewardship contract, the company has completed several restoration projects over the years, including stream bank rehabilitation in Waimanalo, waterbird habitat restoration at Mokapu, and coastal restoration at Kalaeloa. The company also propagated more than 150,000 native plants for the reforestation of Johnston Atoll, according to its website.