BY MICHAEL TSAI | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED 9:46 AM ET JUN. 03, 2022
HONOLULU — With the Honolulu City Council’s unanimous passage of an expansive Fiscal Year 2023 budget this week, the fate of the long-disputed Haiku Stairs appears to be sealed.
What You Need To Know
The City Council approved a budget measure that includes $1.3 million for the removal of the stairs
Mayor Rick Blangiardi said he will sign the measure and go ahead with the removal
The Friends of Haiku stairs released the results of a favorable survey in a last-minute attempt to save the structure
An advocate for saving the stairs said the justifications for removal don't hold up
The approved budget measures include a $1.3 million appropriation for the removal of the steel stairs, which replaced a similar wooden structure first installed as a pathway to a Navy radio facility during World War II.
The trail has been officially closed to the public since 1987, but thousands of hikers, many drawn by dramatic social media posts and breathless guidebook descriptions, still traverse over private or restricted property to gain access.
Numerous efforts have been made over the years to identify possible means of restoring public access and addressing concerns about safety, maintenance, visitor traffic and other issues, but none garnered the necessary public and political support.
In a last-ditch effort to avoid the demolition, the group Friends of Haiku Stairs shared the results of a survey indicating a slight majority of respondents—51%—did not want the stairs to be removed and only 26% favored removing the stairs promptly. The remainder of respondents indicated they did not know or did not care.
On Wednesday, following the Council vote, Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said he intends to sign the budget measures, clearing the way for the demolition of the stairs.
“Yes, we fully intend to remove Haiku Stairs,” Blangiardi said. “As you know, I’ve said repeatedly, that initially I thought it was a good idea to keep them. As we looked into it, I began to understand the liabilities of the situation, the trespassing, the invasive species, and just a whole lot of other things. This is the right thing to do, and we’re going to do it.”
Chris Dacus, who has written extensively in favor of saving the stairs, said Blangiardi “is wrong on all accounts” in his decision to go ahead with the removal.
“There are no facts that support liability, invasive species or that removal will stop trespassing, but what is really concerning is the things not being said,” Dacus said.
Dacus cited the increase in helicopter rescues on the town-side trail leading to the stairs (including 14 rescues last New Year’s Eve) and the diversion of hikers to more dangerous trails like Olomana.
“The safety record is undisputed: zero accidental deaths in 80 years,” Dacus said. “(The Board of Water Supply) admitted in the (environmental impact study) that they were never sued. The worse invasive species have been in Haiku over 100 years before the stairs were even built. The 800-pound gorilla in the room no one is talking about is that removal will not eliminate trespassing. In fact, it may increase.”
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