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City announces plan to remove Koko Crater platform, replace with safer option

Rather than being removed altogether, the steel platform atop Koko Crater will be removed and replaced with a new one, the Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation announced in a press release today.

The city had withdrawn its plan for permanent removal after community members expressed opposition last year, but reinstated the project last month.

The decision to ultimately replace it was made following discussions between DPR, the city Department of Design and Construction, City Council Chair Tommy Waters and the volunteer group Kokonut Koalition, which has been replacing the worn-out railroad ties of the World War II-era former tramway that hikers have long used as an improvised stairway to the summit where they stand on the platform to take in the view.

A resolution has been reached to mitigate immediate safety concerns with the platform in place, and afterwards address its removal and rebuilding in a separate project, the city said.

“I’m proud of our teams for taking the time to listen to tramway users, and the Kokonut Koalition, to find a pathway moving forward where all parties are in agreement,” Mayor Rick Blandgiardi said in the statement, noting that the hike is growing in popularity. “Safety is always our top priority, but we must also be aware of how our public facilities impact the community.”

David Nixon, president of Kokonut Koalition, thanked all those who “took the time to post their reactions, (and) write their representatives and city officials,” adding, “the same unobstructed 360-degree view we’ve enjoyed at the end of the brutal hike up the stairs is going to remain a part of the Koko Crater experience for you, your kids, and their kids through this resolution with the City.”

Waters thanked Kokonut Koalition members, “who continue to demonstrate their passionate advocacy for the Koko Crater Stairs,” as well as the mayor, DPR Director Laura H. Thielen and DDC Director Alexander Kozlov, “who have all demonstrated flexibility and a keen desire to work with community stakeholders.”

First-phase, mitigation work will include removing debris from tunnels and shafts, sealing the shafts, vents, and tunnels, and installing signs at the summit, steel platform, and tramway trestle to warn visitors of safety hazards, DPR said.

In a second phase, the existing steel platform will be removed and replaced “with a safe viewing area designed to support foot traffic for enjoyment of the panoramic view,” the statement said, estimating the timeframe for implementing the project to be “in the 12 to 18-month range.”

After completion, the parties agreed, they will investigate long-term solutions for future management and maintenance of the tramway and summit to support public use for the future.

The project was originally scheduled to begin on March 29 and take approximately three weeks to complete, DPR said, but the schedule is now being re-evaluated in light of the platform change. Details on closures for the summit, tramway, and adjacent park facilities when work gets underway will be forthcoming, the announcemenet stated.

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