Legislation proves to be a tough hurdle for rock climbers

Efforts underway to change liability laws

Published  10:51 PM HST Mar 12, 2013
HALEIWA, Hawaii -

Oahu rock climbers, cut off from scaling public lands, team up with the same state agency stopping them from their sport.

Ever since a rock-fall accident happened at the Mokuleia wall last year, Oahu rock climbers have been grounded from state land.

"Almost everything is on public land. What's closed down is not just the Mokuleia wall, there's Makapuu and a bunch of other spots that have been closed down," said Kaneohe resident Zachery Knoebel.

Instead of climbing along Hawaii's natural rock formations, many island climbers are now taking on something even more challenging: legislation that limits the state's liability.

"We are aware the Department of Land and Natural Resources has been working with legislators to amend our liability laws for the past ten years, but every year its been shut down," said Mike Richardson with Climb Aloha.

In the past, Hawaii has been held liable and paid out multimillion dollar settlements for those who have died after going off a trail or who were killed at scenic spots around the state.

Because current liability laws aren't clear over who is responsible when risky activities take place on public lands, the state has shut down the land to everyone.

"As long as it is not clear then the state has some hesitancy because there may be some attorney that wants to go after the deep pockets of the state of Hawaii," said William Aila, the DLNR Chairperson.

When it comes to liability, Aila and most climbers are in agreement and support bills that would shift liability to those taking part in the activity, instead of the state.

One measures that would shift the liability has already been killed this legislative session, but another will be heard next week.

Without a change to the law, Aila said he'd be hard pressed to open state lands to climbers. Aila added that if lawmakers do not change the liability, he was working on a backup plan that may be able to help, but one that is admittedly a longshot.

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