Hawaii Set To Remove Famed ‘Stairway To Heaven’ Due To Trespassing

The Haiku Stairs have been a controversial tourist destination for decades, although they've been officially closed to trekkers since 1987.

The Haiku Stairs — the famed, and illicit, stairway atop a mountain ridge in Hawaii — may soon be dismantled under a plan approved by Honolulu’s mayor this week, ending a decadeslong fight over the attraction on Oahu.

The hike, known locally as the “stairway to heaven,” ascends more than 2,800 feet to the ridge of the Koolau Mountains. The 3,922-step trek is popular with thrill-seekers and tourists, although it has been officially closed to the public since 1987.

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said it was “inappropriate” to have a popular tourist spot near private land.

“We have listened to the varying compelling arguments and appreciate all the feedback and information received from all sides of the Haiku Stairs issue,” Blangiardi said in a statement earlier this week. “We recognize the interest the stairs have to certain community groups, however issues such as trespassing, personal injuries, invasive species and overall safety of the public cannot be ignored.”

The Honolulu City Council unanimously adopted a resolution last week calling for the stairs to be removed, saying they were a potential liability. Ninety-three people were cited over a 10-day period in March trying to access the stairs, according to The Associated Press.

The mayor said he agreed with the city council and intended to move forward with the expensive removal process. Local officials have already allotted about $1 million for the work.

The city has spent about $1 million in taxpayer funds to remodel the stairs and hundreds of thousands of dollars in security fees, Honolulu Civil Beat reported. The stairs are now managed by the Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation.

The Haiku Stairs are a popular attraction on Oahu, but they've long been a subject of debate among residents.
The Haiku Stairs are a popular attraction on Oahu, but they've long been a subject of debate among residents.
Laszlo Podor via Getty Images

Advocates for the stairs’ preservation said they were disheartened by the news. Vernon Ansdell, the president of the advocacy group Friends of Haiku Stairs, said he would continue fighting the removal plans.

“It’s not just views, it’s almost spiritual,” Ansdell told the Civil Beat. “Every time I’ve been up, sometimes it’s cloudy, sometimes it’s rainy and sometimes the wind is howling. But when you get up there, the clouds start to clear.”

The U.S. Navy built the stairs during World War II to provide access to a military radio station, and they gained popularity from tourists in the 1970s, according to Civil Beat. Trekkers could get a waiver from the Coast Guard, which managed the trail at the time, so they could see what was touted as “Hawaii’s best view.”

The Coast Guard closed access to the stairs in 1987 amid reports of vandalism and littering, but even the threat of a $1,000 fine didn’t stop enterprising hikers from climbing up the mountains.

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