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in the news.
registration required, below is the cut and paste.

mauna loa trail system envisioned

Saturday, December 10, 2005 8:26 AM HST

'Truly spectacular' trails possible

by Dave Smith
Tribune-Herald Staff Writer

When Kahuku Ranch was added to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park two years ago, it did more than just expand the park. It also opened up the possibility of a extensive network of trails encircling Mauna Loa.

Such a network could be a world-class attraction for Hawaii residents and visitors, according to the Mauna Loa Trail System Feasibility Study released this week.

The study outlines plans for a trail system on the mid-elevation slopes of Mauna Loa created through the combined efforts of Kamehameha Schools, the National Park Service, The Nature Conservancy and private landowners. Counting alternate and connecting trails, the system would stretch about 350 miles.

A trail ranging in elevation from 4,000 feet to 7,000 feet has been envisioned for years, but finding ways to get a multitude of private and public land owners together has been difficult.

That changed with two recent events, said Rob Shallenberger, The Nature Conservancy's director of conservation on the Big Island.

The acquisition of the 116,000-acre Kahuku Ranch established a publicly owned link between upper areas of Ka'u and Kona. Also, Kamehameha Schools has expressed support for a trail system that would cross its lands that stretch from Hualalai in North Kona to above Honaunau in the district's southern reaches.

"It was really a matter of good timing," Shallenberger said.

He said such a system could provide a network of trails that "celebrates the very special nature and cultural resources of the islands."

"It could be a truly spectacular experience with many cultural, educational and economic benefits," he said.

While some of the trail's route is made up of hiking trails on Mauna Loa's eastern side, most of it is currently not accessible to the public.

The majority of the proposed trail network is over private property, including a handful of large ranches. Those owners have expressed varying degrees of interest in the system.

As it has been proposed, only about five miles of new trail -- between the Kahuku Ranch Road and the Ainapo Trail near Kapapala Ranch -- would need to be built, Shallenberger said. The rest of the trail follows existing four-wheel-drive roads and trails.

The main trail touches or comes close to a paved public road in only three locations: on the Ka'u forest corridor on Highway 11, on Kaloko Drive on Hualalai near Kailua-Kona and on Saddle Road four miles from Waikii Ranch. None of those locations currently is set up for public access.

There are already at least seven privately controlled access points to the proposed trail including various ranch roads as well as the street network in Hawaiian Ocean View Estates.

The study included interviews with 69 Big Island residents on their views about the trail system. Those interviewed included elected officials and representatives of government agencies, land owners and recreational interests.

While some of those interviewed said they were skeptical the project would or could be achieved and several were categorized as "not very interested" in its establishment, most were in favor of the concept. None said that the trail should not be built.

Those interviewed favored establishing the trail as a loop instead of segments partially encircling Mauna Loa. Many also said finding a government department to manage the trail system could be difficult, saying that existing federal, state and county agencies already are struggling top stretch their budgets to meet the public's current expectations.

For that reason, the establishment of a nonprofit authority to manage the trail system is favored. Such a group, like those that manage the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail, could solicit donations and grants as well as manage volunteers and sponsorships of facilities or sections of the trail.

Those interviewed had mixed feelings about the possibility of charging a fee for the trail system's use, although most felt it would be appropriate to charge commercial guide services for its use. Many felt that educating users about trail manners and hazards was more important than charging a fee, the study said.

Shallenberger said one option might be to charge for use of overnight facilities. The study proposes between 12 and 15 such facilities which could range from Spartan camp sites to lodges of up to 50 rooms. Owners of ranches might choose to build the latter as a way to diversify their operations, he said.

The cost of the project has been estimated at up to $45 million.

"The cost really depends on which strategy is implemented," he said.

One of the major challenges will be to provide sources of water for those using the trail.

He said if matters such as access and liability can be worked out, significant portions of the trail could be opened within three years.

The portion through the Kahuku unit of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park will likely not be opened until after the park completes an updated master plan.

Shallenberger said the next logical step in the process would be to create a steering committee.

The 185-page study was paid for through a $90,000 grant from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, $45,000 from Kamehameha Schools and $15,000 in in-kind contributions from a variety of agencies and groups.

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5,937 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
The 185-page study was paid for through a $90,000 grant from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, $45,000 from Kamehameha Schools and $15,000 in in-kind contributions from a variety of agencies and groups.[/QUOTE]
They spent alot of money on the "study".
That's what I want to do, get paid to "study" where trails should be built!:)
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