Haiku Stairs’ removal advances

The Honolulu City Council on Tuesday advanced a measure that would call for removal of the Haiku Stairs on Oahu.

Stairway to Heaven, the World War II-era trail up the steep cliffs above Kaneohe, was closed to the public in 1987, but trespassers continue to find ways to reach the stairs and hike them. They have been hotly debated for years, with nearby residents upset by traffic and other disturbances, and hikers hoping for legal access, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Wednesday.

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Councilwoman Esther Kiaaina introduced a resolution that passed Tuesday to allow for more public discourse on the subject after many people testified about the removal of Haiku Stairs during the budgeting process earlier this year.

“I felt that given the strong passion on both sides of the issue, as well as its contentiousness, that we needed to ensure that we provided an avenue … to allow for City Council members to hear from both sides, to hear from the administration, to hear from advocates on both sides, to hear from the abutting landowners,” she said.

Kiaaina was able to secure $1 million in the city’s budget for the removal of the stairs. However, it will ultimately be up to Mayor Rick Blangiardi to release the funds for the stairs’ removal.

Vernon Ansdell, president of the Friends of Haiku Stairs, a nonprofit group dedicated to preserving the trail, listed the group’s plan for managed access to the stairs, which would not require the city to remove the structure.

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The highlights of the group’s plan include security personnel installing security cameras and limiting the trail to 80 hikers a day. The group would shuttle the hikers from an office location in Kaneohe to the trailhead on a route that avoids the neighborhood area. A vendor would run the operation, but Friends of Haiku Stairs would be an advisory group.

The next full City Council meeting is Aug. 11.

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