MKRUG’s Letter to DLNR Chair Laura Thielen on Mauna Kea 200 Cancellation

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The Mauna Kea Recreational Users Group recently sent a letter to Laura Thielen DLNR the head of DLNR expressing dismay over the events leading up to the cancellation of the Mauna Kea 200 event promoted by a member OHV group the Rock Island Riders.

PDF of entire letter & attachment: Thielen-100423-original-all

April 23, 2010

Laura Thielen, Chair
Department of Land and Natural Resources
1151 Punchbowl Street
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813

Reference: “Special Use Permit Procedures for the Rock Island Riders, for
its Mauna Kea 200 ATV/Dirt Bike Event within the Waiakea, Upper Waiakea
and Mauna Kea Forest Reserves” DLNR‐DOFAW Letter to Ed Ung from
Roger Imoto dated February 8, 2010. Copy attached.

Dear Chairperson Thielen:

The Mauna Kea Recreational Users Group was formed to unite the
recreational users of public lands and maintain the public’s right of access
and ensure maximum opportunity for responsible public use of Hawaii
lands. This communication’s purpose is to bring to your attention our
concerns over actions taken by members of your department that have
effectively deprived citizens of reasonable access to, and lawful use of
public land. In addition to providing an illustration of overreaching
authority and unsupported rule‐making “on the fly” by the department, the
financial consequence of imposing arbitrary bureaucratic mandates is also

The Mauna Kea 200 is an annual off‐road vehicle race that has been
conducted on the Island of Hawaii since 1976. It derives its name both from
the United States bicentennial that was celebrated in the year of its
inception and the course length in miles. The event has a reputation for its
challenge and has received worldwide publicity. In its 30 plus year history,
the race has attracted some of the nation’s top riders.

The Mauna Kea 200 is promoted by the Rock Island Riders, an organization
composed of local off‐road riding enthusiasts. The club is a not‐for‐profit
organization, and the race is supported primarily by members’ sweat equity. Entry
fees charged are used to offset out‐of‐pocket race expenses. The course is run in the
Waiakea and Mauna Kea Forest Reserves, and has been conducted under DLNR
supervision since 1983.

Race preparation requires a six‐month planning effort. A major task consists of
clearing vegetative overgrowth from the plantation grid roads in the Waiakea
Timber Management Area, which also provide a no‐cost benefit to other users of the
forest reserve. Additional tasks include placement of temporary course route
markers, all of which are removed at the conclusion of the race. In its prior 33 year
history there has been no complaint of damage to any natural resource.

On February 8, responding to a January 6 letter from the Rock Island Riders, the Hilo
office of the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife presented race promoters with a
four‐page list of compliance requirements (attached letter) for the 2010 Mauna Kea
200. Included were mandates previously not required nor expected, and with which
DOFAW certainly should have been aware that a local club, with the limited
resources of the Rock Island Riders, could not comply. The most egregious examples
of heavy‐handed DOFAW demands and bureaucratic micro‐management are
summarized below (italicized):

1. Submission of a Letter of Request to DOFAW indicating the proposed race route
120 days prior to the event. Why does it take 4 months to evaluate a race route,
particularly since the majority of it has been used for over 3 decades?

2. Advance payment of a $2,500 “restoration fee” deposit. Where does a local club
come up with such money? Where is the statute or administrative rule on which
such a mandatory deposit is based? HRS 198D‐12 specifies a maximum fine of that
amount for a first conviction of Statewide Trail and Access System rules violation,
and a portion of the race is run on the Mauna Kea multi‐use access road R1, which
coincidently has been designated part of the Na Ala Hele Trails System. Does this
required payment represent a peremptory fine for an anticipated but not committed
nor judged trails system violation?

3. Hiring of two off‐duty DOCARE officers, although their service is specifically not
guaranteed in the stated requirement. What is the basis for this requirement that
was not necessary in past events?

4. A 100 percent increase in liability insurance coverage from one to two million
dollars. What is the basis for the increase?

5. Issuance of the required Special Use Permit only 20 days preceding the event. If
DOFAW requires 4 months to evaluate a route used previously why can it only issue
a permit 3 weeks in advance of the race? It is impossible to conduct the advanced
planning necessary and make requisite commitments under such uncertainty.

6. Violation of any permit condition removes subsequent applicant eligibility for two
years from the date of the last permit. An innocent oversight violation of any
condition in the four pages of micro‐management minutia would create an
ineligibility period of three years, actually, when the previously described 120 and 20
day requirements are factored. What is the authorizing statute or rule that supports
such punitive action?

7. Requiring “permission” vouchers from “land owners or agencies” that include
HELCO, State Highways, County Police, “local Mountain Biking Club”, and “Pig
Hunters Association”. No such named user organizations exist and no contact
information was provided. If any of these entities were uninterested, unidentifiable
or otherwise unresponsive, how could the Rock Island Riders possibly comply?

Additional examples of poor execution in the preparation of the document and its
attempt to manipulate every aspect of a previously successful event are readily
apparent. Two questions arise; why were these excessive requirements added and
why were they approved by DOFAW management?

A meeting was held on February 10, 2010 between DOFAW management and the
Rock Island Riders in an attempt to ameliorate the turmoil initiated by the new
compliance requirements presented. The arrogant and confrontational demeanor of
the DOFAW staff member who we believe composed, but did not sign, the
referenced letter was unprofessional and counter productive. The meeting ended
without resolution of substance. A revised letter received the following day failed to
provide significant relief. With time of the essence and little prospect of reaching a
reasonable agreement, the Rock Island Riders felt there was no alternative but to
announce the cancellation of the Mauna Kea 200 for 2010.

The Mauna Kea Recreational Users Group was formed to represent legitimate and
responsible users of public land such as the Rock Island Riders and the world class
Mauna Kea 200 event they sponsor. Such users are growing increasingly resentful at
the arbitrary and capricious actions of public servants who use their positions to
deprive fellow citizens of their rightful recreational activities. It is for this reason
that we have brought this matter to your attention.

There are many good people in DLNR who do an excellent job of serving the public.
Unfortunately there are some, as in this case, whose concept of public service is
flawed and who exceed their rightful authority. The Mauna Kea 200 would have
been held in about five weeks on Memorial Day weekend. The irresponsible actions
that caused the event cancellation has cost the economy of the State of Hawaii an
estimated $750,000. Financial loss at any time is unfortunate, but is particularly
troubling in our current economic environment. This was, sadly, entirely avoidable.

We believe your investigation will find the Rock Island Riders to be one of the most
responsible organizations on the island, and that a large number of people are
extremely concerned and disappointed at the perceived abuse. We hope you will
take appropriate corrective action to improve the quality of service provided by your
department that the public deserves. This will hopefully enable the Mauna Kea 200
to resume in 2011 and ensure public access to public lands.


Wayne Blyth

cc: Mr. Paul Conry, DOFAW
Senator Russell Kokubun, State Senate
Senator Dwight Takamine, State Senate
Representative Jerry Chang, State House of Representatives
Representative Clift Tsuji, State House of Representatives
Representative Mark Nakashima, State House of Representatives
Mayor Billy Kenoi, County of Hawaii
Councilman Donald Ikeda, Hawaii County Council
Councilman Dominic Yagong, Hawaii County Council
Ed Ung, Rock Island Riders
Chuck Johnston, Hawaii Fishing News

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