Sunday, September 23, 2001

Big Isle landowner OKs
access to historic sites

By Rod Thompson

HILO >> Public access to Mookini Luakini Heiau and related historic sites at the northern end of the Big Island has been assured by surrounding landowner Chalon International of Hawaii.

In a surprise move last week during a county Board of Appeals meeting, Chalon representatives gave a verbal guarantee of access to the 1,500-year-old, state-owned temple.

Attorney Michael Matsukawa, representing heiau high priestess Leimomi Mookini Lum, said the Chalon statement is in the record of the board meeting. "Now we have to pencil it out," he said.

The Chalon guarantee included a gravel road along a former railroad right of way and trails leading to the Kamehameha Birth Site and to Lum's nearby private property.

Lum became suspicious of Chalon when the company filed a still-pending lawsuit to quiet title to the railroad right of way. Lum feared the action was a first step in blocking access.

"I couldn't believe it," Lum said of Chalon's surprise announcement. She said she still has to work on implementing a 1992 law which calls for the state to acquire buffer-zone land around the heiau. Chalon has said it is willing to discuss implementing the law.

The matter was before the Board of Appeals because of separate access concerns of county Planning Director Chris Yuen. He said Chalon's guarantee ends concerns in that area, although disagreement continues about four other areas.

Chalon officials could not be reached for further comment.

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