New effort to reopen Haiku Stairs

It’s one of Hawaii’s most popular hiking trails, even though it’s been closed to the public since the 1980’s.

Day after day hikers sneak in to climb Haiku Stairs, also known as Stairway to Heaven.

Talk about its future has been dragging on for years, and now a city lawmaker is putting his foot down.

Councilman Ikaika Anderson has formed a Haiku Stairs working group task force.  It includes all three of the landowners and managers — the Board of Water Supply, the State Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and Kamehameha Schools, along with residents, native Hawaiian cultural practitioners, and members of a group that’s been working to reopen Haiku Stairs.

“My hope with this task force is with all of these folks being able to sit down, meet and talk story that we will be able to come to a consensus to help open up the stairs for access at some point,” Anderson said.

The stairs were initially built as a way to reach a Naval radio antenna.  It was closed in 1987 because of vandalism and disrepair.  The state took it over, then the city.  Under Mayor Jeremy Harris the city spent $875,000 to repair Haiku Stairs with the intention of reopening it.  But there was too much opposition from the neighbors.

“Our primary concern is constant noise, add to that crime, add to that trash,” said Kaneohe resident Ken Rose, who lives near one of the entry points.

Rose is on the task force.

“If the route does not go through our community and neighborhood if there’s a way to set it up where the large amounts of traffic doesn’t go through our community then we would be overly supportive of that,” he said.

“If we can deal with all of the issues that everybody brings to the table I think we can come up with a great solution,” said Mo Radke of the Kaneohe Neighborhood Board.

The Friends of Haiku Stairs was formed back in 1987, the same year it was closed, and all these years they’ve pushed to reopen the stairs.

“I’m delighted this group is being put together.  I think all the main actors are going to be involved in this group, and I think there’s a solution to this that will satisfy everyone who’s involved in this,” Friends of Haiku Stairs President Vernon Ansdell said.  “It would be a crime to close the stairs permanently.”

Anderson has given the task force 90 days to come up with findings and recommendations.  After that, he’ll turn it over to Mayor Kirk Caldwell, who really has the ultimate say in whether it gets reopened.

Caldwell recently told KHON2 that he’s looking for a solution that includes a new access point away from the homes, and that shields taxpayers from liability issues.  In the meantime the stairs remain closed and trespassers can be cited by police.

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