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Hawaii NewsWhatever Happened To

Legal hiking of Haiku Stairs stumbles over access issues

Question: Whatever happened to the Stairway to Heaven? I thought the city was going to open it for public hiking once the stairs were fixed.

Answer: Despite the city having spent $875,000 to repair the Haiku Stairs, commonly known as the Stairway to Heaven, it remains closed to the public because of access issues, city spokesman Bill Brennan said.

"The city does still provide a degree of security there (to keep hikers out)," Brennan said.

The city spends about $50,000 a year to station private security guards near the trail head seven days a week to prevent illegal access.

Police Lt. John Vines of the Kaneohe substation said the posted guard stops hikers from going up, but doesn’t detain those coming down.

Vines said hikers continue to park in the surrounding neighborhood, but residents’ complaints of hikers climbing over fences have subsided for the past year or so.

Police rarely receive calls anymore, although people continue to illegally hike there, Vines said.

He said this lack of complaints could be due to hikers using alternate access routes, including those on Kamehameha Schools property.

The original wooden stairs were built to provide access to a Navy radio antenna atop the Koolau Range in Haiku Valley. They were replaced in 1952 with metal stairs.

Under former Mayor Jeremy Harris’ administration, the city repaired the 3,922-step stairway, which was shut down in 1987 due to disrepair.

The city had planned to reopen the Haiku Stairs in October 2002. But from 2002 to 2003, the popular hiking attraction became a point of contention with area residents.

They complained that as many as 200 hikers a day were trespassing through their property, parking on their streets, blocking mail delivery and trash pickup and arriving early in the morning, causing dogs to bark and waking residents.

So access was fenced off.

In 2005, in an attempt to gain legal access for hikers, the city was prepared to swap land in Ewa with the state for the Haiku Valley land leading to the Haiku Stairs.

However, the land deal with the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, which owns portions of Haiku Valley, hit a legal snag. Because the Ewa property in Varona Village was purchased with money from a special housing fund, it required that any land swap must be made with another housing property.

The city has faced other kinds of delays, including liability concerns requiring the posting of warning signs.

This update was written by Leila Fujimori.

You can write to us at What Ever Happened to …, Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210, Honolulu 96813; call 529-4747; or e-mail cityeditors@staradvertiser.com.

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