Honolulu’s water utility has decided to explore dismantling stairs that allow people use to go on a popular yet illegal hike.
The Board of Water Supply’s directors on Monday agreed to spend half a million dollars to figure out how to remove the Haiku Stairs. Money would be released in the upcoming fiscal year, and the study would include an environmental assessment.
"I’m told it’s a beautiful hike. But it isn’t core to our mission of providing safe drinking water to our community," said Ernest Lau, manager and chief engineer of the Board of Water Supply, KHON reported.
Lau said he would prefer to transfer the stairs and the land under them to another government agency better equipped to manage public access. He has informally asked the National Park Service and state Department of Land and Natural Resources if they would be interested in a land swap. Both said no.
The trail, also known as Stairway to Heaven, has been closed for nearly 30 years. But people still hike it illegally.
Utility staff told the board on Monday that Honolulu police cited 100 people and made six arrests in the last six months, KITV reported.
During the holidays, security guards reported that as many as 150 hikers per week try to get to the area.
The board spends $160,000 a year to pay for security guards in an effort to deter hikers, Lau said. That’s money the board would rather spend on safeguarding the island’s water resource.
The stairs and railing are made of galvanized steel, but they are decades old.
Recent wind and rain triggered a landslide, knocking out trees and part of the stairs. The trail remains dangerous, and hikers should stay away, Board of Water Supply resource chief Barry Usagawa said.