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URGENT!

Contact the Governor

The Friends of Haʻikū Stairs filed an appeal to the Hawaii Historic Places Review Board challenging the City's permit to remove the historic Stairs. Our appeal identified the existence of a historic preservation covenant which makes it unlawful to remove the Stairs. Unfortunately, the board cannot rule on our appeal because they do not have the required number of governor-appointed members. The City is about to demolish the Haʻikū Stairs even though the full review process required by state law has not occurred. 

Governor Green has the power to fix this failure of due process and suspend the City's permit. We need your help ensuring he hears our request before it's too late.

Litigation Update:

In August 2021, the Honolulu City Council voted to demolish the iconic Haʻikū Stairs. The vote came despite an overwhelming public outcry to save the Stairs. In the preceding two years, over 5,000 public comments were submitted with more than 90% favoring preservation. A professional public opinion poll in April 2022 confirmed that a clear majority of O‘ahu residents want to save the Stairs not destroy them. The Stairs are a historic World War II monument eligible for the National Historic Register. They offer a unique, world-class hiking experience, treasured for generations. It would be tragic to lose them. 

 

The Friends of Haʻikū Stairs filed a lawsuit against the City in August 2023 seeking a court order to halt demolition on environmental grounds (read more here). Unfortunately, the Circuit Court ruled against us. We are appealing the ruling and look forward to being vindicated in the months ahead. We are confident that the City will ultimately be held accountable for its attempt to evade state law.

In addition to our lawsuit, we are actively pushing to block demolition on multiple fronts. 

Please donate to support our efforts.

Our Mission

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Friends of Haʻikū Stairs (FHS) is a group of volunteers whose mission is to protect the historic Haʻikū Stairs and the surrounding ʻāina for current and future generations. By partnering with local grassroots stakeholders and the community, we believe we can realize a shared vision of stewardship for Haʻikū Valley through managed access solutions, focusing on creating and sustaining a thriving valley from mauka to makai.

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Don't let the City give away public property.

The City's plans to remove the Haʻikū Stairs have assumed a new twist. Evidence suggests there may be a secret backroom deal to transfer the Stairs to Kualoa Ranch. City attorneys and spokesmen have repeatedly denied such a plan exists. Yet, Mayor Blangiardi himself publicly acknowledged it in April 2023.

This video shows the mayor speaking at the Kalani Town Hall meeting on April 13, 2023. He describes a “plan to work with Kualoa Ranch” to move the Stairs there.

In court filings, City attorneys offered shifting explanations for the Mayor’s remarks. They first claimed the Mayor was referring to a different staircase. Then, they argued he was only speculating about a possible “aspiration.”  Then, they argued that the City’s contract with Nakoa Company, the demolition contractor puts the issue beyond the City’s control. However, the City has failed to disclose the contract or address possible side-deals cut by City leaders. The City insisted, categorically, in a public court filing that the “Stair modules are not being installed at Kualoa Ranch” on September 5. As recently as November 3, the City continued to characterize any suggestions that the Stairs might end up at Kualoa as “absurd.” Finally, on December 5, the City conceded in court that a Kualoa deal “may” in fact have been agreed on.

City taxpayers will be asked to spend over $4 million to remove the Stairs, wreaking untold environmental harm while burdening residents with two years of helicopter overflights. By the City’s own account, the upside will flow to private companies. Nakoa will receive the proceeds from sale of the Stairs modules—the very same modules that City taxpayers paid Nakoa almost a million dollars to repair back in 2003. And Kualoa Ranch stands to gain a priceless, historic asset for its exclusive commercial use. A unique and world-class hiking experience accessed by the public for generations will be removed from its historic location and converted to a “visitor attraction” reserved for high-spending tourists.

All of this could take place without any scrutiny or public disclosure under Hawaiʻi environmental law. Hawaii residents deserve to know the true facts about the City’s plans for the Stairs. Friends of Haʻikū Stairs are fighting to uphold public transparency and oppose corporate giveaways.

Protect public property. Protect the Stairs. Please donate.

  • The “Stairway to Heaven” is an iconic landmark and historic monument that island residents have treasured for generations

  • It is one of the safest hikes on the island:

    • Zero deaths or serious injuries as a result of a fall

    • Zero lawsuits to the City in 80 years

  • Cost of removal could exceed $10 million with permitting, mitigation, and remediation​​

  • Removal could also cause:

    • Serious harm to endangered species living in critical habitats around the Stairs

    • Soil runoff harming the downstream watershed leading into Kāne‘ohe Bay

  • Public testimony and opinion polls clearly show the majority of Oʻahu residents support reopening the Stairs under managed access

  • Closing the Stairs diverts hikers to the Moanalua "back way," a far more dangerous route that has led to 7 HFD rescues in the past year alone

  • People will still climb the ridge even without the Stairs

    • ​The City plans to leave behind support structures which climbers will likely attach ropes to on their way to the summit, increasing safety risks and environmental harm

  • Managed Access would be a zero cost, zero risk proposition for the City & County.

    • All costs associated with reopening the Haʻikū Stairs, including operational management, repair, would be covered by non-government funds (e.g., private and non-profit).  All liability would similarly be assumed by private entities. 

  • Managed Access would bring jobs & investment to our community.

    • A core commitment would be to hire locally and to invest in remediation projects for the valley.

  • Access to the Stairs would be curated by paid guides, drawn from Native Hawaiian experts and cultural practitioners in the community in order to ensure a safe, culturally sensitive, and environmentally sustainable experience steeped in local tradition and respect for the ʻāina.

  • 24/7 surveillance of Stairs access to end trespassing and unauthorized access once and for all.

  • Public access that bypasses residential neighborhoods and off-site parking.

  • Capacity controls and hours restrictions to further minimize disturbances.

  • Partnership with stakeholders in Haʻikū Valley and Heʻeia ahupuaʻa to realize synergies and develop a shared vision and stewardship (e.g. re: native plants, cultural & historical sites).

  • Priority and zero cost access for Native Hawaiian gatherers & other cultural practitioners.

We have a chance to create something truly special in Haʻikū Valley. The Stairs are of World Heritage caliber and could become a Federal, State, and/or City and County Monument that would serve as a focal point of pride, jobs, and investment for Windward Oʻahu while affording responsibly managed access to the mesmerizing beauty of this place for countless generations to enjoy.

Why Save Haʻikū Stairs?

Managed Access is the Answer

In April of 2022, the Kāneʻohe Neighborhood Board unanimously supported a resolution calling for a halt on demolition of the historic Haʻikū Stairs. This is to allow the City and County of Honolulu time to account for spiraling demolition costs and to properly consider alternatives to destroying a world-famous monument in its 80th anniversary year.

 

We have been holding collaborative conversations with community stakeholders and recognize the value in a collective vision for Haʻikū Valley. While the details of our Managed Access proposal are still being developed, we want to share with you some key points:

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** Please note: The stairs are currently closed and illegal to access, no matter how you access them. We do not provide information that will aid people in breaking the law.

What About Trespassing?

Trespassing is a serious concern. The harms it has caused to the community are real and must be addressed. However, removal of the Stairs will not end trespassing. The Stairway to Heaven is internationally renowned. Images of its panoramic vistas are widely promoted on social media. Removal of the Stairs will not end the pent-up demand to climb them. Hikers will likely still scale the ridge regardless, and they will trespass to get there.

 

Nor is this an issue of “hikers vs. community.” The Haʻikū Valley community itself remains divided on the Stairs issue. Many residents have either climbed the Stairs themselves or would like to.  Doing so forms a rite of passage for many neighborhood kids. Despite the harm and suffering that trespassing has caused, many residents would like to find a solution to end trespassing and keep the Stairs in place. 

In the long run, managed access provides the best solution to eliminate trespassing. There was virtually no trespassing during the Coast Guard years when legal access was available. Trespassing only became an issue when the City & County closed the Stairs after the Coast Guard pulled out. Reopening the Stairs under managed access would allow demand to be managed responsibly and generate funding to pay for effective security.

 

There is much more that could be done to control trespassing in the interim. The City wastes money on ill-designed security measures that could be redirected more productively. Instead of patrolling the neighborhood in squad cars, which does little to stop trespassers from sneaking onto the Stairs, security could control trespassing at the base of the Stairs themselves. Once hikers are on the Stairs, they have nowhere else to go but up and down (and nowhere to hide). Thus, stopping trespassing is feasible with more effective enforcement strategies.

 

The Friends of Haʻikū Stairs is working to remedy trespassing issues. We have joined with the Kāneʻohe Neighborhood Board to convene a permitted interaction group (PIG) to address this problem through community-driven solutions. The PIG includes Neighborhood Board members, as well as residents who oppose the Stairs and residents who support the Stairs. It meets every 6 weeks to build a consensus around commonsense solutions. You can read minutes from the PIG meetings and an agenda for future meetings here.

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If you would like to help us in our mission to save Haʻikū Stairs, please consider donating to our fundraiser through direct donations or through the purchase of merchandise from our store. All proceeds directly support FHS in its mission to halt destruction and are tax deductible.

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