The debate continues over what to do about a popular but illegal hiking trail in Windward Oahu.
The Friends of Haiku Stairs and the Koolau Foundation submitted a joint funding application for a city Clean Water and Natural Lands Grant in order to buy the stairs, also known as the Stairway to Heaven, from its current owner, the Board of Water Supply.
The application requested funding for the purchase of a tax map key (TMK) parcel that contains the stairs, plus three feet on either side.
BWS officials said they had strong concerns. Ernest Lau, BWS manager and chief engineer, submitted a response that said:
The parcel under TMK 4-6-015:011, which contains the majority of the Stairs, is a landlocked parcel with no legal access to a public roadway. …
This poses a significant challenge to any group interested in purchasing this parcel from the BWS. Lack of a legal access that doesn’t impact the nearby neighborhoods has led to rampant trespassing through private and restricted property, and has adversely impacted nearby residential neighborhoods and communities for many years. It would be difficult for BWS to even consider such a sale unless this issue is resolved and neighborhood impacts are mitigated. …
… BWS’ preference is to transfer the entire parcel (TMK 4-6-015:011), which includes the Stairs, to another government agency. Other agencies (e.g. City, State, or Federal) are better equipped to manage a feature such as the Stairs, deal with the access issues and have land management experience and expertise. Transfer of the parcel will require the approval of both the BWS and the Honolulu City Council.
Friends of Haiku Stairs says it withdrew the application in light of these issues, but plans to resubmit it next year.
The stairs have been closed to the public for more than 30 years. Those caught trespassing face a $1,000 fine.
The Board of Water Supply is in the process of putting together an environmental impact statement for removing the stairs.