Kauapea Beach, also known as Secret Beach. Photo by Ruby Pap

The County of Kaua‘i filed suit against defendant landowner KAPHA North Shore LLC on Feb. 28 in an effort to reopen a public beach access to the eastern end of Kauapea Beach, also known as Secret Beach, according to a county news release.

“I applaud our county attorneys for their diligent work over the course of the last several years to hold the land owner accountable,” Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. said. “Ensuring all members of the community access to public spaces is our kuleana to honor the wishes of our kupuna and serve present and future generations.”

The property in question is an approximately 21-acre portion of the Kilauea Gardens Subdivision located on an oceanfront bluff overlooking Kauapea Beach near the Kilauea Lighthouse. As a condition of subdivision approval, and of Special Management Area (SMA) permitting required for the development of the Kilauea Gardens Subdivision, the developer was required to provide a pedestrian access easement from the public road to the shoreline across the land currently owned by KAPHA LLC.

The prior owner of the property blocked the public from using the trail despite the community actively using the trail across this land for decades. The blocking of this public access has been a top concern of the community for years.

In an attempt to resolve the dispute over this public trail without litigation, the county began discussions with KAPHA LLC’s Hawai‘i representative in early 2017. Unfortunately these discussions reached an impasse and the mayor concluded that going to court was the only way to resolve this matter.

According to the Wall Street Journal, KAPHA LLC, is owned or controlled by a trust connected to Russian heiress Ekaterina Rybolovleva, daughter of Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev. Business Insider reports that the property, along with a second adjacent parcel of approximately 7 acres previously owned by actor and rapper Will Smith, is currently on the market for $29.5 million.