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Contract worth $2.5M awarded to remove Haiku Stairs

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The City and County of Honolulu has awarded a contract to remove the Haiku Stairs, dedicating some $2.58 million to the demolition project.

The Nakoa Companies, Inc., specializes in “complex infrastructure projects” and will be working on the removal of the Haiku Stairs and the Moanalua Saddle Stairs, the city’s Department of Design and Construction announced today. The contract for the removal includes the base amount and contingencies, the city said.

“The selection of The Nakoa Companies, Inc. for the Ha‘ikū Stairs removal project represents a major milestone in our ongoing efforts to enhance public safety and protect our natural resources,” said Haku Milles, the department’s director said in a statement. “We are confident that Nakoa’s expertise and commitment to excellence will result in a successful and well-executed project.”

The project will include the removal of the “aging narrow metal stair structure while ensuring the preservation of associated structures,” the city said in a news release, adding that a biologist will “evaluate each section of the Stairs prior to and after removal to protect native species and to prevent erosion, including re-vegetating with native plants where necessary.”

The removal of the stairs, also known as the Stairway to Heaven, has been a topic of controversy for years.

The Friends of Haiku Stairs, a nonprofit trying to preserve the stairs, filed a lawsuit earlier this month against the city to prevent their removal.

The lawsuit, which called the stairs an “iconic and historic monument,” said they are situated on federally protected critical habitat for endangered species and that there hasn’t been an adequate assessment of the potential damage the demolition project could have on the area.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi has favored the removal of the stairs, which is not legal to hike but nonetheless attracts hikers from around the world. Nearby residents have complained about the noise, trespassing and traffic in the area from hikers, and the derelict stairs and nature of the hike have led to dozens of rescues, he said.

“Our decision to remove Ha‘ikū Stairs was predicated on a number of factors. First and foremost public safety; both for hikers and especially for the surrounding residential community that has endured illegal trespass, harassment, and property damage for decades from those seeking access to the stairs,” Blangiardi said in a statement. “Secondly, we do not believe the managed access plan as proposed by the Friends of Ha‘ikū Stairs is feasible, cost effective or a solution to illegal access. Third, over the last 15 years our first responders have experienced more than 57 dangerous rescue operations, and that is simply too many times to put our first responders at risk.”

The nonprofit said that it has maintained the trail at no cost to the city since 1987, when the stairs were first closed to the public, until 2015 when the city told it to stop its maintenance.

It also said the contract to remove the stairs is a “shameful waste of money” in a Facebook post today.

FHS has argued against the dangers to the public, saying that there has been no evidence of anyone dying or being seriously injured from a fall from the stairs, and that there is public support to keep the stairs in place.

Stewardship of the stairs, first built in 1942 by the U.S. Navy, has transferred between the U.S. Coast Guard, the Board of Water Supply and the city itself.

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