HILO — The Hawaii County Council will take an offer for an alternative route to Papaikou Mill Beach under advisement, but it will need more details before making a decision, Chairman Dominic Yagong said Thursday.
“There’s got to be some clarity for the council members and with the community from the landowners with regard to the alternate trail,” he said.
That includes a timeline and further discussions between those landowners, Jim Waugh and Charlene Prickett, and their neighbors, the Shropshires, whose property would be the access point for a new trail, Yagong said.
Prickett and Waugh proposed the new route as an alternative to the county acquiring the existing trail, that runs through their property, through eminent domain.
Steve Shropshire said that he’s not interested in providing his private road and land for a new trail.
As for Yagong, he said his focus remains on the resolution he introduced to acquire the existing trail in order to preserve or improve beach access.
“The beach is abutting the Waugh’s property, not the Shropshire’s property,” he said. “The public access needs to be, I think, generated through the existing landowner’s property before you look anywhere else.”
The council members, after touring the property, held a public hearing Wednesday evening at Papaikou gym.
The hearing was attended by about 300 people, many wearing armbands in support of acquisition.
Yagong said 48 gave testimony, with all but three in favor of the existing resolution.
“At this point in time, it seems the majority of people (in Papaikou) feel the traditional access to this property for generations … should be accessible,” he said.
Yagong repeated that he doesn’t take eminent domain lightly, and said the proposal is supported by language in Hawaii Revised Statute Chapter 115, which he believes gives the county the responsibility to provide for public routes to the shore.
“I think there’s no question that the support is there,” he said. “The question is: how do we get there.”
Not all the council members are in agreement.
Councilman Dennis Onishi said he’s not sure that eminent domain is needed, and questions whether the county should spend money buying the path.
“I’m hoping that somehow the landowners and the community can kind of agree on something where you can have that public access and be fair to both parties,” he said.
Councilman Donald Ikeda said during the tour that he is also not a “believer in eminent domain.”
Onishi said he didn’t attend the tour and following public hearing due to “prior commitments.”
The council’s Finance Committee will discuss the issue again Tuesday in Kailua-Kona.