Haleakala trail proposal
sparks fears of damage

WAILUKU >> A proposal to open a Maui trail to commercial bike tours has sparked criticism from some hikers and environmentalists who worry the move could result in a flood of people and deteriorating conditions.

The debate is over Skyline Trail, a 6.8-mile unpaved road atop the massive, dormant volcano Haleakala. The proposal calls for it to become the first trail on Maui to open to guided bike tours.

Already, commercial hiking tours are allowed on Skyline and while commercial bike tours are popular on Haleakala, they travel along the paved Crater Road, not a trail. But some say further tours would commercialize the area, disrupt the peaceful atmosphere and damage the environment.

"Every footprint, every rut stays and gets bigger and bigger over time," said Mary Evanson, a hiker and conservation advocate who opposes the plan.

Ben Hall, owner of Haleakala Bike Co., initiated the request to open Skyline to guided bike trips.

He said he long accepted the prohibition of bike tours on Maui trails. But he said if hiking tours are allowed, bike tours should be too.

"They said no commercial activity," Hall said.

If the plan is approved, Hall said he expects to lead one group of 12 people down the trail each day.

The current limit on commercial hikers is 36 people daily, with no more than 12 people per group.

A decision on the tours is not expected soon.

The state Na Ala Hele Advisory Council will continue discussions of the proposal at its June 16 meeting and is not expected to vote on the request until later in the summer. But the council's decision is not final; it only has authority to recommend action to the Board of Land and Natural Resources.

Skyline Trail begins as a desolate cinder trail at the Haleakala summit and winds down the southwest slopes to a pine forest at Polipoli Springs State Recreation Area. It's one of four trails on Maui open to both private hikers and mountain bikers.

The trail provides spectacular vistas spanning from the Big Island to the east and south, Kahoolawe and Lanai to the west and Molokai to the northwest.

Dept. of Land & Natural Resources


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