‘Haiku stairs are going to come down’ says Mayor Blangiardi

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Haiku Stairs, more commonly known as the Stairway to Heaven, will soon be a thing of the past now that the City Council has approved more than a million dollars needed to remove the stairs.

The Honolulu City Council today approved a $3.2 billion operating budget.

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Tucked among the items is $1.3 million to remove the Haiku Stairs, which has been a point of contention in the windward community for years.

“On a going-forward basis, there may be a viable alternative, but the Haiku stairs are going to come down,” Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said. “Initially I thought we should keep the stairs but the more we looked into it we couldn’t get by the liability in the situation.”

Originally built in the 1940s and renovated in the early 2000s, Haiku Stairs trail consists of more than 3,900 stairs leading up to the top of the Ko’olau mountain range.

The popularity of the trail has grown in recent years causing problems with access and safety.

Honolulu City Council Chair Tommy Waters said it’s been a nightmare for residents.

“The neighbors that lived next to the Haiku Stairs had to endure so much trauma and basically disrespect by hikers who was climbing over their fences going in their yards at all hours of the day-and-night,” Waters explained.

Waters explained that trying to maintain and provide access was extremely complicated involving numerous landowners.

Council Member Esther Kia’aina, who represents the area most impacted, said Wednesday’s decision was no surprise.

“Today was a victory for communities,” Kia’aina explained. “And I believe that the collective quality of life and peace of mind for the Haiku community was more important than the individual happiness of the hikers.”

Kia’aina said the city will hire a contractor soon but the removal of the stairs likely won’t happen until next year.

The Friends of Haiku Stairs President Sean Pager, who has advocated to keep the stairs, said he wants to help solve the problem of trespassing, but first needs access to the stairs to do it.

“We can solve this problem,” Pager said. “We want to work with (lawmakers). We want to work with the community.”

Pager also doubts $1.3 million will even be enough for the teardown.

“We think that’s only the beginning of the true costs,” said Pager.

Marcus Griego, who created the Caveman Hiking Chronicles hiking group, said removing the stairs won’t get rid of the problem. He said it will push more people to go up through Moanalua Valley, which is much more dangerous.

“(Lawmakers) are gonna regret it later when you have so many more rescues and that ridge from the back, when Moanalua gets beat up. And it’s already crazy, and it’s gonna get worse.”

Marcus Griego, Caveman Hiking Chronicles Creator

Also among the budget items are over $50 million for housing opportunities, $29 million for clean water measures and $2 million to assist individuals leaving domestic violence situations.

“This budget reflects the needs of our community as so many struggle to live in our island home. From funding affordable housing to fighting for clean water, the Council stands strong in our commitment toward supporting an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. I am hopeful that this budget will help us to see greater City services to ensure the health and safety of our ‘āina and neighborhoods.”

Tommy Waters, Chair and Presiding Officer of the City Council.

The budget now moves to the mayor’s office for signature or veto.

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The FY23 budget takes effect on July 1.

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