City officials say they are moving forward with a project to remove the steel platform atop Koko Crater Stairs due to major safety concerns.
The city said in response to the Kokonut Koalition, their nonprofit partner which is strongly opposed to the removal, that it was moving forward with the project originally announced last summer to mitigate several safety issues atop Koko Crater.
”The City recognizes that this platform was a popular location for pictures and served as a viewpoint at the summit, but it was not built for this purpose,” said Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation in a statement. “It is our belief that the platform’s removal will only affect the view by a matter of a few feet. Furthermore, the platform is structurally unsound with part of it resting on the old winch gears. Having a safe viewpoint is more important than having one that is elevated by a few feet.”
Photos shared by the city show the platform has collapsed on several sides, along with the existence of large gaps, and rusted parts.
The scope of the project, officials said, includes the removal of the summit’s steel platform and framing, which is partially resting on the old winch’s gears. It includes the removal and sealing off of access to World War II era shafts, vents, and tunnels filled with hazardous debris.
Additionally, the city plans to install warning signs at the summit as well as the “bridge,” an area about halfway up where tramway ties are suspended above ground.
In the June announcement, the $439,000 contract was awarded to Kaikor Construction Company Inc. DPR said a similar contract is in place with Kaikor, but with an added $16,000 due to the delays.
Members of the Kokonut Koalition, a nonprofit overseeing maintenance of the stairs, felt blindsided by news the project was moving forward since it had been suspended due to community pushback last year, particularly as they were in the midst of “working tirelessly” to make emergency repairs.
They said the platform is an iconic and integral part of the hike, and the panoramic viewing experience would not be the same without it. Instead of removing it, they say it should be repaired, and that alternative options should be explored.
“We disagree with DPR’s assessment of the impact on the view,” said Kokonut Koalition president David Nixon. “You can see in some of the video footage there’s quite a lot of bushes there in the surrounding area, and they’re not short, and the platform is only about 6 feet tall, but it makes a big difference.”
The platform needs repair, he said, but he does not agree with the city’s assessment that it poses an “imminent danger.” He said it has been in its current condition for many years, and there have been no incidents there.
He said the hundreds of thousands of local residents that climb up there to take in the views and photos deserve some input on the platform’s future.
Honolulu City Council Chair Tommy Waters, who represents the district, said his understanding is that the prior administration made the decision to take down the platform, and that he is concerned about its removal given the lack of community input.
“I am in the process of trying to facilitate a meeting with the Kokonut Koalition and the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Design and Construction as soon as possible,” said Waters in a statement. “I am also working with the new administration to see if the removal of the platform is absolutely necessary. If we can modify the contract to exclude the platform removal, I would be willing to work with the City Administration, the Kokonut Koalition and other community stakeholders to explore alternative options to address the safety concerns related to the platform.”
The coalition said it has invited both DPR director Laura Thielen, and Mayor Rick Blangiardi to climb up the stairs to assess the situation in person.
The tramway and radar station were built by the military in 1942, then deactivated in 1966 and returned to the city. Since then, the railway ties leading to the summit of the crater at Koko Head District Park have become a popular draw for residents and visitors alike.
“We look forward to coordinating with the Koalition on possible maintenance at the summit that would further enhance the views,” said DPR in a statement. “We are grateful for the wonderful work they are doing on the tramway, and are looking for ways to continue to financially support that effort.”