Officials in Honolulu plan to destroy a popular hiking trail and Instagram-worthy site that draws thousands of visitors each year, arguing it’s too dangerous and the influx of visitors is a detriment to the local community.
The Honolulu City Council voted unanimously last Wednesday to remove the Haiku stairs or “Stairway to Heaven” and set aside $1 million to complete the job. The next step is for Mayor Rick Blagardi to approve the city budget and complete the move to destroy the site.
In a resolution on its agenda, the council says it “urges the city government to remove the Haiku stairs and associated structures to end the restraining order, reduce disruptions to local neighborhoods, increase public safety, reduce potential liability.” for the city to take away and protect the environment.’
The US Navy built the stairs in 1940 as a way to provide access to a secret military radio base used in World War II.
But the Coast Guard closed the steps in 1987 due to a spike in vandalism and liability concerns, which came after the attraction was featured on an episode of “Magnum PI” and led the visit to 200 visitors a day, according to the Honolulu Civil Beat.
Nevertheless, the site still attracts about 4,000 visitors a year, even though it is illegal to climb and violators can be fined $1,000.
The steep 2,480-foot climb involves 3,922 narrow steps built into the Koolau Mountains in Oahu and makes hikers feel like their heads are literally in the clouds.
Honolulu City Council voted unanimously last Wednesday to remove Haiku stairs or ‘Stairway to Heaven’ from state
The site attracts about 4,000 visitors each year, even though it is illegal to climb and violators risk a $1,000 fine
The steep 2,480-foot climb involves 3,922 narrow steps built into the Koolau Mountains in Oahu and makes hikers feel like their heads are literally in the clouds
Between March 14 and March 23 of this year, the Honolulu Police Department arrested six hikers and issued 93 tickets during an operation aimed at stopping visitors from attempting the illegal climb, according to the report. Associated Press.
However, despite safety concerns, there has only been one documented death on the stairs – singer and comedian Fritz Hasenpusch, who suffered a heart attack while climbing in 2012.
The removal of the stairs has been a controversial topic for decades, as outlined in a report conducted between 2017 and 2019 by the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, which owned the stairs until it was handed over to the city government last year.
“With the advent of social media, instructions to illegally access the Haiku stairs are readily available, and the frequent sharing of panoramic snapshots is encouraging people around the world to risk the climb,” the report reads. ‘There is a continuing need to stop the cut-through traffic and to reduce the nuisance in the adjacent residential areas.’
However, despite safety concerns, only one documented death has occurred on the stairs when a man suffered a heart attack while climbing in 2012.
The US Navy built the stairs in 1940 as a way to access a secret military radio base used in World War II
In the 1970s, the U.S. Coast Guard owned the stairs and allowed approximately 75 guests to visit the stairs each day before it closed in 1987
Mayor Rick Blagardi must approve city budget to quash move to ‘Stairway to Heaven’
When the Water Board owned the stairs, it spent about $250,000 in tax dollars each year on security services to prevent trespassing.
Maintenance costs were also a burden on the agency, and in 2016 it spent $23,000 to remove a swing that was illegally installed on the ridge near the top of the stairs.
Honolulu’s police and fire departments also incur costs for enforcement and rescue operations, the agency wrote in its report.
The US Navy built the stairs in 1940 as a way to access a radio base.
In the 1970s, the U.S. Coast Guard owned the stairs and allowed about 75 guests to visit the stairs each day before closing in 1987.
The staircase nearly reopened to the public in 2001, when then-Mayor Jeremy Harris invested $875,000 to repair damaged sections of the staircase and renovate sections for safe public access.
But the plan never came to fruition.
The attraction has a devoted fan base that has been fighting to clean and preserve the site since its closure in 1987.
The group attracted the “Friends of Haiku Stairs” and protested the council’s decision Tuesday outside the Honolulu Hale, a local municipal building, according to the local news station. KITV.
The “Friends of Haiku Stairs,” the group rallied on Tuesday against the council’s decision outside the Honolulu Hale, a local municipal building, on Tuesday
The group wants the site to be accessible again to the public under ‘managed access’
The organization’s president, Vernon Ansdell, told the station: “Losing the stairs would be a catastrophe. This is an invaluable Windward treasure. And they must not be destroyed. This would be a huge loss to Oahu, the state of Oahu, and especially the residents on the Windward side.”
Andsell recently wrote an op-ed in the Honolulu Civil Beat advocating “managed access” to the stairs, similar to former Mayor Harris’ plan. He writes that the decision of the municipality ‘defies logic’ and explains a detailed plan how the stairs can function as a tourist attraction again.
It says, “The Haiku Stairs can be reopened and operated at no cost to Hawaii’s taxpayers and would leave city and state governments $2.14 million better than the proposal to remove them.” Visitors would have to pay to go up the stairs, and this would cover the costs of security, insurance, maintenance, personnel and educational programs.”