While we appreciate and respect Paul Arinaga’s opinions and insights about hiking in Hawaii, as outlined in the April 11 Community Voice feature in Civil Beat (“How To Make Hiking In Hawaii Safer”), Mr. Arinaga makes some assumptions and statements that are inaccurate and misleading.

First and foremost, the Department of Land and Natural Resources Na Ala Hele Trails and Access Program does maintain a recently updated and official trails website with information about all designated State of Hawaii Program trails, including identified hazards and detailed descriptions.

We trust it goes without saying that to add illegal, unsanctioned trails that may well be accessible to a government website could encourage people to trespass on private land and worse potentially put them into dangerous and possibly life-threatening situations.

A hiker traverses the Manoa Cliff Trail on Oahu.

Department of Land and Natural Resources

Mr. Arinaga suggests that the state should partner with one of the multitude of online sources that deliver trail information via websites of apps. Millions of people use services like Strava, Topo Maps, Avenza, Google and other providers. It would be unwieldy to figure out which partner to pick, as there is not a dominate one which would ensure accurate trail information being disseminated widely.

The Na Ala Hele program is staffed by extremely dedicated public servants who often work in extreme and unforgiving conditions to keep the broad system of state trails maintained and safe for users. Of course there’s always room for improvement to keep up with the latest trends, provide good maintenance of existing trails and proper signs to guide and warn users.

Detail from the DLNR’s Na Ala Hele Trails and Access Program website. the state says it identifies hazards and detailed descriptions.

This group of folks works hard with limited human and financial resources that do not match the current extreme usage of many trails around the state. We rely on trail users to help report deficits in trail conditions, safety issues, etc.

The previous Community Voice opinion article suggests that the state invest more money in maintaining trails. The DLNR and the trails program asks for additional funding each and every year, but no amount of funding will necessarily make unsanctioned trails — like Olomana — safer.

Liability Challenges

It is inherently dangerous and there is no way to protect people who chose to accept the risks of hiking on closed trails or rails that are well known to be high risk.

The author suggests establishing a truly informative website. It already exists and we have no control over bloggers who write their own posts on nongovernment websites.

Our responsibility is to manage access for everyone, much of which is required by law.

Mr. Arinaga suggests the Na Ala Hele website is deficient in that it doesn’t provide difficulty ratings. Novice or difficult can mean different things to different people, so as not to mislead anyone we list detailed information about trail lengths, elevation gain, and hazards. This is the standard and consistent way to describe outdoor recreational sites across the country. Unsanctioned trails are unsanctioned for a reason.

Should all the taxpayers of Hawaii assume liability if someone gets hurt or killed on a trail that is not sanctioned? We think not.

Further Mr. Arinaga suggests that the state stop improving access to trails like the Makapuu Lighthouse trail in the Kaiwi Scenic Shoreline State Park. Experience has shown that people will use areas no matter what.

Our responsibility is to manage access for everyone, much of which is required by law. While not every outdoor experience needs to be paved, we attempt to provide access to public trails and facilities for everyone, no matter their physical condition or capabilities.

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Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Columns generally run about 800 words (yes, they can be shorter or longer) and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org.

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