Lawmakers attempt to reopen popular rock climbing site

By Andrew Pereira
Published On: Feb 11 2014 06:50:34 PM HST
Updated On: Feb 11 2014 11:14:10 PM HST

Injuries and death are occurring more and more to thrill seekers participating in Hawaii outdoor activities. Several bills are going through the legislature because the State and counties are becoming targets of lawsuits.

HONOLULU -

After a 12-year-old girl was critically injured in June, 2012 by a falling rock at a spot known as "The Wall," the Department of Land and Natural Resources closed the area to all activity.

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Ever since then, climbing enthusiasts have been trying to get The Wall reopened. After failing to pass legislation last year, the goal may now be within reach.

"We began things late last spring going to the attorney general, DLNR and our legislators and saying, 'Hey, we need to come to the table and reach a solution on this,'" explains Michael Richardson, the owner of Climb Aloha, who has spearheaded the legislative effort.

The collaborative effort resulted in a bill (SB 1007) that's currently making its way through the state Senate. The bill states any sign that warns of dangerous conditions on improved or unimproved public lands, is adequate protection for the state and counties against lawsuits. The measure has received support from state and county agencies, who view the bill as the proper balance between common sense and holding government accountable.

However, the bill would not protect state and local governments from litigation if there is gross negligence, for example, if a warning sign becomes unreadable.

"We feel a lot more hopeful about this year's effort," said Richardson. "The current bill I think is a real good compromise, or solution, and that's kind of what politics should be about."

Meanwhile, a separate measure (HB 2592) in the state House indemnifies the state and counties against lawsuits if a person is injured while participating in hazardous recreational activities, such as surfing, hiking or kayaking.

"It's simply going ahead and allowing these activities, but at the same time providing the safeguards for government," said Rep. Karen Awana, one of the co-sponsors of the bill.

In 2012, the state settled a lawsuit for $15.4 million dollars after two women died while attempting to use an unimproved trail at Opaeka'a Falls on Kauai in 2006. State Attorney General David Louie submitted testimony to several Senate committees saying the case would likely not have gone to court if a law about signage had been in place.

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