Column: Haiku Stairs is no treasure; Remove it
If Haiku Stairs is a treasure worth saving, add it to the list of sites closed to public access.
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Social forums have created a global coconut wireless, which has incited thrill seekers to climb the Haiku Stairs in total disregard of existing laws, government-erected fences, locked gates and trespassing signs. The environmental damage caused by the daily intrusion of nearly 1 million people, the disruption to residents’ lives and violation of government and private properties must stop.
I’ve lived below the Stairs for 32 years and have witnessed the daily onslaught of thrill seekers, many of whom have told me social media was the source promoting the stairs with sites on how to access it and offering to serve as guides to the stairs, with its many access points. These “hikers” are not interested in the botany, cultural or natural history of the stairs or area. If they were, learning environments exist in the community, such as Papahana Kuaola and Paepae o He‘eia.
Contrary to points made in a recent commentary (“Haiku Stairs a treasure worth saving,” Star-Advertiser, Island Voices, July 14), let’s get some things straight:
>> The city spent not more than $825,000 to repair the stairs. The public access issues that existed in 1987, 2002, and today were not unforeseen. The city has talked to the many different landowners involved and no one has been able to come to an agreement in over 30 years.
>> The $1 million “foreseeable” costs to reopen the Stairs does not include the cost to condemn private property, negotiate easement rights, or resolve potential lawsuits. We can’t shoulder another “rail project” of escalating costs.
>> The past 30 years have proven that access is unmanageable. Managed access by the city, its “Friends” or any other entity is a Pandora’s box that should not be opened.
>> Unlike the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium, the Stairs is neither a memorial nor a legacy. Removing it would not be discarding our heritage, which it is not. Removing it would be doing what should have been done when it was decommissioned in 1950 after outliving its military purpose and structural life. It would be giving closure to what should have again been done in 1987 due to disrepair and unresolvable land usage rights issues and unenforceable management.
>> The city doesn’t need to remove or dismantle all of the stairs. Limiting removal to the lower half of the Stairs would cost less than $1 million, and would impede access to the upper section, and end the illegal access on the Haiku side.
>> Community members have offered to remove the stairs for free — just as we would have removed the illegal swing at the summit, which cost the city $32,000 to remove.
>> There are many historical, cultural and valuable natural resources and sites that are not open for public access to preserve and protect these areas for future generations.
If Haiku Stairs is a treasure worth saving, add it to the list of sites closed to public access. The city and its “Friends” can then take on a similar role as Kahoolawe Island Reserve Commission, to protect the Koolau mountain range, as Oahu’s primary watershed area, to ensure future generations are able to be sustained with pure, uncontaminated water. City funds can then be better spent taking care of our homeless problem and lack of affordable housing.