‘Stairway to Heaven,’ or Dangerous Nuisance? A Hawaii Landmark Is Set to Be Scrapped.

Dr. Ansdell said that the Haiku Stairs, built in 1942, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor the previous December, and named for the valley below, had a relatively clean safety record. He said that concerns about liability had been overblown and that as many as 20,000 people climbed the stairs when they were open to the public and when the Coast Guard had taken over access.

Thousands of people have continued to climb the stairs each year since they were closed in 1987, according to the preservation group.

“It’s a stairway,” Dr. Ansdell said. “It’s got railings. You go up and you go down. If you use a minimum of common sense, you won’t get injured. One person died from a heart attack. You can’t really blame the stairs for that.”

Dr. Ansdell said that a majority of emergencies on the mountain involved people climbing a different trail, adding that he had climbed the Haiku Stairs 10 times.

But at a Sept. 8 meeting of the Honolulu City Council, the body’s vice president expressed concerns about liability and said that there were too many property owners involved to develop a managed-access plan for the stairs.

“As we all know, due to rampant illegal trespassing, Haiku Stairs is a significant liability and expense for the city and impacts the quality of life of nearby residents,” the council’s vice president, Esther Kiaʻaina, said. “I strongly believe that removal of the stairs is the only viable option to mitigate the city’s liability, reduce disturbances to local neighbors, increase public safety and protect the environment.”

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