Joe Akana

U.S. Representative, District 2

Republican

Many Haʻikū Valley residents are rightfully concerned about trespassing by hikers illegally accessing the Stairs. Trespassing is entirely a government-created problem caused by closing off access. When the Stairs were open to the public under the Coast Guard, trespassing was virtually nonexistent. Moreover, spending millions to remove the Stairs will not end trespassing. The City plans to leave behind the anchor pillars underneath the Stairs, providing a ready-made scaffolding that will encourage climbers to attach ropes and scramble to the summit. More effective solutions to trespassing merit exploration: As an interim measure, barriers could exploit natural chokepoints along the Stairs’ steep terrain. Combined with community-driven policing and smart technology, trespassing could be curtailed cheaply and effectively. The longer-term solution would be to reopen the Stairs, providing public access that alleviates the incentive to trespass and generates revenue to pay for ongoing security. What is your opinion of these cost-effective, public-private solutions to address trespassing?

Closing access that was once open under Coast Guard management within Haʻikū Valley has exacerbated trespassing. The Board of Water Supply and the City and County of Honolulu have proven to be terrible stewards of the stairs.

The Haʻikū Stairs and surrounding area, including the Omega Station, should be placed on a National Register as to be protected in perpetuity. This would allow for a public-private partnership to develop and maintain the area. The City’s current plan to remove the steps, and leave the anchor pillars is sloppy and an insult the ahupuaʻa.

The Ha‘ikū Stairs— aka “Stairway to Heaven”— originally built in the 1940s, is an iconic structure that has been used by visitors and residents as a safe way to ascend the Windward Ko‘olau peaks. The City intends to demolish this landmark soon. Stairs supporters and the majority of O‘ahu voters polled agree that the City should explore managed access alternatives before proceeding. What is your opinion?

The stairs should not be demolished and must be restored. They are an historic piece of Hawaiʻi’s role during World War II and was once home to the first global-range radio navigation system.

I propose turning the defunct Omega station building area into a visitor center. Charge a flat fee admission to enter, which aids grounds maintenance. At the Omega station area, hikers learn about the valley, sign a waiver /release form, and then board a shuttle to climb the stairs. This would centralize visitor traffic to the area near the Omega station and away from the residential neighborhoods.

The surrounding land abutting the Ha‘ikū Stairs is owned entirely by state entities, including the H-3 access road. This road had been used to access and maintain the Stairs, but it is currently closed. The BWS 2019 Environmental Impact Statement recommended using the H-3 access road to provide public access to the Stairs, which would bypass residential neighborhoods. Other community groups have also expressed an interest in using the H-3 access road. For example, the road was listed as a potential bike path on the City & County of Honolulu’s 2012 Bicycle Master Plan. What are your views on opening the road to public use?

I suggest the road be opened to public use. The access road could be upgraded and slightly expanded and graded to include both automobile and bicycle access. This would allow visitors into the valley up to the Omega station area, where the proposed visitor’s center would be. There is no reason why the access road could not be shared by both automobiles and bicycles.