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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, December 17, 2001

Diamond Head canoe fight resumes

By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser East Honolulu Writer

Four months after an outrigger canoe was removed from a beach behind the Kainalu cooperative apartments near Diamond Head in a dispute between a former neighbor and the co-op association, the canoe is back.

The four-man canoe owned by Jim Thurston and his family sits near the spot it occupied for 20 years. Thurston brought it back to the cheers of some neighbors and families about a month after he removed it in August.

But the dispute isn't over.

The cooperative association maintains that the boat is on private property, said Harold Chu, a Honolulu attorney representing the co-op.

Using an old land survey and an estimate of where the canoe was stored, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources ruled that it was on private property all along, Chu said.

"It's simple," Chu said. "The state has confirmed that the boat is on private property and the association wants it removed."

But with the canoe back on the beach, Chu would not say how far the cooperative association is willing to go to pursue its removal.

Thurston acknowledged that the boat was sitting on private and public land, but said he moved the canoe to the broader part of the beach where high-tide waves wash over it.

"We brought the boat back because I feel we have a right to keep the boat on the beach," Thurston said.

The Hawai'i Supreme Court ruled that the public has access to the shoreline from the water to the boundary, which is determined by the vegetation line or the uppermost wash of the waves. But where private property ends and public beach begins is a shifting line, debated between homeowners who paid a premium price for their beachfront property and the public, which has a legal right to get to the beaches.

Meanwhile, the standoff on Coconut Avenue continues.

The co-op association regularly tapes notices on the canoe warning that it is trespassing on private property and must be removed.

Just as regularly, Thurston takes those notices off.

Reach Suzanne Roig at sroig@honoluluadvertiser.com or 395-8831.