POSTED: 13 June 2004 - 9:00pm

Tara: The plantation estate in Gone With The Wind

Road Access to Papaa Bay Confirmed

By Joan Conrow
In a stunning victory for beach access, a Kauai County-ordered record search has proven that a public road does exist to Papaa Bay across land owned by movie producer Peter Guber and his Mandalay Properties.

But Kauai Mayor Bryan Baptiste cautioned residents not to assume that any existing roads on the heavily landscaped private estate are the legitimate access. He said the county must now work with Guber on the alignment of the public access road to Papaa Bay.

"We want to meet with the landowner to discuss the location of the public access," Baptiste said in a prepared statement released June 10. "The County is committed to taking the steps necessary to maintain public access to Papaa Beach for the people of Kauai."

Papaa Road currently runs makai from Kuhio Highway, then ends abruptly at a gate and barbed wire erected after Guber purchased the land. Guber has since built an oceanfront mansion and is currently trying to sell the estate.

The public nearly lost the access when former Mayor Maryanne Kusaka urged the County Council to sell Guber the road for $15,000. She touted the sale as a good deal for the county, claiming the public road was useless because it ended 300 feet from the beach. Kusaka never ordered a county title search when Guber’s attorney, Max Graham, approached her about the sale.

But State Senator Gary Hooser, who was serving on the Council at the time, spoke against the sale, as did a number of Kauai residents who contended the road originally ran all the way to the beach and should be reopened for public access to Papaa Bay. Hooser pressed the Council to conduct more thorough research on the access issue to ensure the public
could easily reach the deep water bay that was widely used by fishermen when the area was a working cattle ranch. He also called upon Guber to open a locked gate placed across the county road.

Hooser’s concern heightened when he was stopped by some of Guber’s workers while walking on the beach, and reportedly told he couldn’t be there because the beach was private. All beaches in Hawaii are public up to the vegetation line.

Although the Council did not approve the sale, Hooser was unable to muster support among the other Councilmembers, including Baptiste, to push for public access. When Hooser was elected to the state Senate in 2002, no one on the Council took up the issue. Kusaka is now challenging Hooser in his re-election bid.

The access issue languished until late December 2003, when a group of residents staged a “Take Back the Beach” event at Guber’s gate. Baptiste issued a notice warning activists that anyone attempting to cross the gate would be prosecuted for trespassing. More than a dozen police, including some attired in riot gear, were on hand to greet the residents and four persons were arrested. The charges against all have since been resolved or dropped.

Guber, meanwhile, filed a lawsuit against Aliomanu resident Bill Young, editor of The Kauai newspaper, contending he had orchestrated the protest and jeopardized the sale of the estate by spreading what the lawsuit termed as false information about the existence of a public access on the site.

Following the arrests, Baptiste agreed to have the county attorney’s office investigate the issue. On June 10, his press secretary issued a release in which he stated,  "Our research found there is a public road leading to Papaa Beach across the property called the Widemann Reservation.”

A 10-page report titled Facts Found in Public Sources Relating to the Ownership and Use of Certain Roads at Papaa was also made public. The report answers three questions:

1) Is there a public road or public access that runs across the Widemann Reservation to Papaa Beach?

2) What additional sources of information are available to clarify the uncertainty?

3) What procedure is available to determine whether the road shown on the 1931 Towill map is a public road or is subject to public use?

According to the report, "Information can be found in public sources that reveal (sic) the existence of public roads at Papaa lying on the easterly (makai) side of the Main Government Road and at points on and across the Widemann Reservation. In the past, government officials, including County officials, claimed these roads as public roads. In 1932,
County officials secured the ownership of some of those roads... The material facts relevant to the County's claim to the roads have not changed."

Although direct public access to Papaa Bay does seem likely, the conflict goes deeper than legal easements, underscoring more troubling social changes on Kauai. In the old days of neighborly reciprocity, former ranch manager Duke Wellington recalled, access wasn’t an issue because fishermen obviously needed the road to haul their heavy nets to the bay. New
landowners, however, apparently are either unaware of such needs, or are unwilling to share, prompting some locals to bemoan the death of a lifestyle built on cooperation and aloha.

Copies of the report are available from Public Information Officer Cyndi Mei Ozaki. The report also contains several attachments, including historical and legal documents about Papaa, a 1900 map and more.

Ozaki can be reached at 241.6303 or  email

For additional background click here
Island Breath: PapaaBay 1


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