By TOM CALLIS
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Hawaii County now knows how big of a check it may have to write for placing the Papaikou Mill Beach trail into the public’s hands.
An appraisal finished last week pegs the private path at a value of $28,500.
But before the county moves ahead with offering a deal — and taking possible court action — to create a publicly-held right of way, it may also have to deal with another shoreline access issue on the same property.
The land offers the only shoreline access for the community, mainly through a path maintained by property owners Jim Waugh and Charlene Prickett with some restrictions. The land ownership, as well as expectations for access, has created tension between the owners and residents.
Last November, the council voted to authorize the county to use eminent domain if necessary to acquire the path after residents spoke against the landowners’ control of it. The appraisal is seen as the first step in that process.
On the far side of the property, down a separate private road, a path used by fishermen has recently been blocked off, one resident told the Tribune-Herald, and he is hoping that the county can again come to their aid.
The path runs through private property, which is clearly marked, but Kalani Lyman said residents have long been able to access it through a gate.
That gate has been kept locked for the past two months, he said.
Lyman said Waugh and Prickett own that property as well but lease it out.
That area is being used to raise chickens, and on Thursday one of the lessees drove down in his truck to tell him he wasn’t welcome.
In a confrontation highlighting the tension between property rights and public access, the man, clearly angered by his presence, shouted several expletives, and threatened to call the police for trespassing. Lyman calmly got into his own truck and drove back to Highway 19.
He claims he has a verbal agreement from the owners to allow access. Waugh and Prickett were off island Thursday and Friday and couldn’t be reached for comment.
“We got to fight this all the time,” Lyman said.
Hamakua Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter said she is aware of that issue and plans to do what she can to secure public access for that path as well.
Poindexter said she will be discussing it and the Papaikou Mill Beach trail at a meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Papaikou gym.
“That is the next (issue),” she said.
“I’ve already notified our corporation counsel who will be attending the meeting with me.”
Asked if that matter could result in an eminent domain action, Poindexter said, “At this point I’m not really sure.”
“If it turns into that, then we will go ahead,” she added.
Email Tom Callis at firstname.lastname@example.org.