Wednesday, April 8, 1998

Bill Gates and wife
vacationing on Lanai

The trip comes four years
after their wedding and an access
dispute that led to a lawsuit

By Gary Kubota

WAILUKU -- Billionaire Microsoft co-founder William Gates and his wife, Melinda, spent a day on Lanai more than four years after their wedding and a public beach access dispute that led to a lawsuit.

"They're here by themselves strictly to relax," said Michael Slosser, vice president of resorts for the Lanai Co.

"He was in very good spirits and went with his wife to play golf."

Slosser said Gates arrived by private jet Monday and was expected to spend a day or so vacationing.

He didn't specify which hotel they were staying in.

The Gateses were wed on the golf course and spent their honeymoon at the Manele Bay Hotel in January 1994.

map Honolulu reporters and cameramen trying to cover the wedding were turned away from a fishing trail along the coast overlooking where the wedding took place.

Lanai Co. later signed a consent agreement with the state acknowledging the right of the public's access to the trail.

Part of the agreement called for the firm to put up signs identifying the public access trail.

Eventually, Gates and the parent firm of the Lanai Co. paid an undisclosed sum of money to settle a lawsuit brought by Seattle television newsman Scott Rensberger, who charged his civil rights were violated when he was arrested for trespassing.

Rensberger was arrested on the public access road before the Jan. 1, 1994, wedding.

Gates apologized in writing to Rensberger for the arrest.

State officials say the company has been providing ocean transportation to volunteers on Maui who help to maintain the trail.

"The company has been very good about honoring the public access," said Curt Cottrell, the state program manager for Na Ala Hele, the state body maintaining the trail.

Lanai Co. agreed to dedicate the trail for public use when it sought government approval for developing its resort at Manele.

At the time of the Gateses' wedding, the company was promoting Lanai as the "private island."

Some Lanai residents say while the trail is being maintained, the beach at Hulopoe is being invaded by tourist campers.

Ron McOmber, president of Lanaians for Sensible Growth, said the Lanai Co. is supposed to enforce rules that require visitors to have permits for camping and to restrict camping to designated areas.

"We're asking the company to enforce the park rules," he said. "The beaches are slowly but surely being taken over by outsiders."

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