Keeping Public Places Public on the Big Island – Hawaii Tax Maps and Public Access
As a member of E Mau NÄ Ala Hele (a community-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization devoted to preserving and perpetuating the historic trails of Hawaii, and the protection of historic and natural areas adjacent to the trails), my husband and I are also volunteers on a sub-committee striving to “keep public places public.” This week, we had the pleasure of meeting with our group in Waimea on the Hawaii Preparatory Academy campus to kick off our efforts to establish goals for the future.
Hawaii Preparatory Academy Campus
Debbie Chang, our president, presented us with a wealth of information regarding the county and state government ordinances and laws regulating public access to various types of property. Of particular interest is access to the shoreline and historic trails.
She also is leading us in our discovery of areas where public access is noted on the tax maps, but for whatever reason, are not currently readily accessible to the public. These are the areas where we hope to focus our attention.
Castle Lecture Hall at Hawaii Preparatory Academy in Waimea
One such area is in North Kohala. A public access trail is clearly identified on the tax map along the shoreline as well as an access road identified leading from the main road to the shore, but in reality, the access is not possible today. Another area of concern is the trail at the end of White Road leading around Waipio Valley.
The issues regarding public access to areas such as these are very complex in nature. For instance, just because land is owned by the state does not necessarily mean the public has the rights for access. The land may be subject to a lease to a private party. Private parties may be unaware of the tax map annotations and assume that they have the right to privacy on all the land they own or are leasing.
It is important for the public to become educated about the property access rights for any particular piece of property before venturing onto land that is in question. Carry a copy of the tax map for the parcel in question to prove your access rights if confronted, such as the one below.
It is also important for property owners to be aware of public access routes across their land. Pay particular attention to the tax map annotations during the discovery period of your contract when purchasing property. Be aware that the public may have the legal right to traverse the land if public access is noted.
For further information on the Hawaii County Public Access rules, click here