Monday, May 23, 2011


GIMME LAND LOTSA LAND: As we age time compresses so although it was nearly a decade ago- 2002 to be exact- it seems like only a few years since the biggest issue in the election that year was the disappearing access to mauka and makai.

It was finally dawning on local people that we have gone to one too many places only to find one too many "no trespassing" signs and worse, fences where once we roamed.

And another thing that happens as we age- those accesses that are left seem to get steeper and more dangerous every time we go. Photographer and teacher David Boynton found that out only too late when he slipped and fell to his death on a trail he had hiked for decades.

That's why it so distressing to read our friend Joan Conrow not just excusing but actually celebrating the news she reported Sunday that hate-monger Bruce Laymon has finally erected his fence at Lepeuli (Larsen's) Beach closing off the prescriptive rights to that section the Ala Loa- an ancient trail that leads gently down to the beach- in favor of a steep, rocky trail that has been designated by the county as the "new" access.

Although she says "I don’t like fences, especially near the beach" she goes on to say:

Still, I totally understand why he did it. Keeping cattle in is only part of it. Quite frankly, it’s the only thing that would keep me, and everyone else who has ever used that path, out.

Besides, let’s not forget that there is, after all, another perfectly good access right there, and it had been freshly weed-whacked to make its presence quite clear.

Then bafflingly she includes a picture that shows a zig-zagging, steep, rocky, narrow trail- one that looks more like it was sprayed with roundup than cut- that disappears into the woods.

She goes on to recount the reaction from a "friend" whose age and agility isn't noted.

“That’s it?” said my friend. “From what I’d heard, I thought you had to scale rocks, risk life and limb. It doesn’t look bad at all.”

“It's not,” I replied. “That’s been totally overblown. Most anyone could go down it.”

Most anyone? One other thing about aging is that the ground seems to get farther and farther away each year and ankles seem to twist a lot more when navigating rocky, steep, uneven accesses.

We can't imagine that what came next wasn't a joke but she wrote that when she got home she received an email from Lepeuli activists describing how a woman whose husband had drowned at the beach was now unable to go there due to a subsequent brain injury.

I wonder, did those who heard her story suggest she call Bruce? Because I’m pretty sure he would have been happy to drive her. And did her husband drown because the lateral trail made it oh so very easy to access the dangerous waters of that beautiful beach?

Is that what we need to do to get access these days? Call a total turd like Laymon to arrange a ride around his fence- which may or may not have been legally constructed after he withdrew his request for a state permit to construct the fence after it became apparent it was about to be pulled.

And, knowing Laymon's predilections I'm sure if it was a group of naked, gay "hippies" he would have dropped everything to welcome them to "his" beach.

Aside from the fact that Laymon has a history of racist, homophobic rants and threats against beach users that would make anyone think a lot more than twice about calling him- assuming they had his number- what kind of precedent does that set when an access that has been used for centuries is suddenly cut off and you have to call the owner and ask for ask to go there as a "favor?"

At the risk of over-simplifying someone else's mana`o, Joan is among those who think that it's okay to restrict access- or make places harder to get to- to preserve "special" places. And there is something to be said about that.

But this is not one of those cases.

When she says that she's "very interested in the question of whether the trail it blocks is a traditional ala loa — an issue that will be decided by the courts, and not Bruce Laymon’s fence," she points to the problem here and in other places because what tends to happen is that it becomes the community's responsibility to hire an attorney at great expense to fight a rich landowner in a state where land equals power and money speaks in the courts.

In this case, even though the state is currently essentially on "our" side it appears that they are way too cash strapped to initiate any legal action against Laymon after he withdrew his permit so as to take an immediate and potentially binding decision out of their hands and make it harder still to enforce conservation district laws and regulations.

And as for the county, despite pleas from the public to withhold action the council recently pushed through a "deal" with property owner Waioli Corporation right before Laymon pulled his fast one by abandoning any claim to the Ala Loa, in favor of the the "new" access. That further complicated the state's case because they had a stipulation in place that required that the county "work out" access issues with Waioli giving them leverage on the Ala Loa.

One thing is clear. Anything that some court might do, some day, would be at the end of years and years of litigation during which time the public- or at least na kupuna- is shut out from the access they've enjoyed since time immemorial. And if that goes on long enough- like say 20 years as it has in other instances- any prescriptive rights go out the window too.

It's hard enough to deal with our disappearing recreational opportunities with greedy landowners scooping up accesses and closing them off. But when those that enjoy them the most start sleeping with the enemy it only make it that much harder to protect them.

That's getting old too.

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