November 15, 2015
For residents near popular trail, the ‘party’ never ends
Another car drives up.
“Make sure your valuables aren’t left in the car. There was a break-in just the other day,” Chris Nakamatsu warns. The tourists give an uneasy thank you.
It’s Saturday morning and it’s raining but they keep coming — tourists ill-prepared for mud 6 inches deep and no way to wash it off. Thousands of people hike on Maunawili Trail every week even though there are no parking spaces, no bathrooms, no signs to warn of hazardous conditions and no security.
The hikers are a constant imposition on the families who live in the quiet little neighborhood, a never-ending source of stress, like a loud, out-of-control party that rages for years. Indeed, social media has dubbed Maunawili “Oahu’s party waterfall.”
This story isn’t new. It’s been written earlier this year and last year and the year before that. Since then, nothing has changed, and that’s why it’s still a story.
Another car drives up. The driver sticks his head out. “Will people get mad if I park outside their house?”
“Yes, they will,” Nakamatsu tells him, though not unkindly. “Park at least four feet away from the driveway, don’t park on curbs or near the fire hydrants.”
Nakamatsu has lived in Maunawili since 2000 and is on the board of the neighborhood security watch. She has documented some of what she and her neighbors have had to endure.
Thieves case the area dressed as hikers. They bring baseball bats and smash car windows when no one is looking. The street glistens with tiny squares of safety glass. In August 2014, there were 13 car break-ins – which was a high. Ordinarily, there’s at least one a week.
The hikers — tourists and locals alike — are at best clueless and at worst boorish. They go up to houses and demand to come in and use the bathroom, saying, “But we need to go! What else are we supposed to do?”
They knock their mud-caked shoes on people’s retaining walls and gates and fences and leave behind their filthy footprints for someone else to scrub off.
They block driveways, pee in yards, knock on doors to ask for directions or to borrow flashlights. They rumble in with motorcycle convoys or tour buses and party at the falls at all hours, yelling, swearing, blasting music. They leave behind mounds of trash and tie their ruined hiking boots together and leave them hanging on the utility lines.
And that’s just the everyday stuff. When somebody gets hurt, there are fire trucks and ambulances, sirens and fear.
The trail goes through land owned by HRT Realty, a subsidiary of Weinberg Trust. When the Luana Hills golf course was developed by a Japanese company in the 1990s, the city made establishing the trail a condition of approval.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources added the trail to its Na Ala Hele trail program in 1995. In 2013, the DLNR commissioned a study on the impacts to the neighborhood, but in 2014, walked away, saying that Maunawili Falls Trail was the city’s kuleana.
Last month, the Maunawili Estates Community Association filed a motion in court to compel mediation that would force all parties to come to the table. The Kailua Neighborhood Board has already voted to tell the city to close the trail. Nakamatsu says the root of the problem isn’t the hikers, it’s the proximity of such a popular attraction to a quiet little neighborhood. That there is no bathroom, public parking or government oversight makes the bad situation even worse.
“We need to take care of our tourists,” Nakamatsu says. “We tell them ‘E komo mai’ and then we lead them into danger.”
A few weeks ago, a California mother and her baby were swept away by rising waters on the trail. The pair was rescued, but they shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Nakamatsu feels the mother was not at fault.
“Don’t blame her. Where does it say not to hike because of flash floods? She’s a tourist. There’s no sign. The trail has been advertised for years as family-friendly.”
Another car drives up. A young couple gets out. The petite woman is obviously pregnant. She’s wearing thin sandals made for the poolside, not hiking.
“The falls are a little over a mile. It’s very slippery. Very muddy. Be careful,” Nakamatsu tells her. The woman nods, reconsidering the hike.
As Nakamatsu walks back toward her house, more cars keep coming.
Reach Lee Cataluna at 529-4315 or email@example.com.