Honolulu’s Beautiful, Illegal Haiku Stairs Trail Set to be Dismantled

The Haiku Stars have been officially closed to the public since 1987.

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Sometimes, a beautiful trail might be too good to be true.

Last week, the mayor of Honolulu, Hawai’i ordered the removal of the Haiku Stairs, a path of almost 4,000 metal steps that runs along a ridge crest above the city. The United States Navy built the stairs in 1942 as a path to a radio relay station, and since then they’ve become a popular—some residents say iconic—way to access a viewpoint over Honolulu and its bays and beaches.

However, the Haiku Stairs—also known as the Stairway to Heaven—are on private land and have been officially closed to the public since 1987. That hasn’t stopped people from climbing them, though, and Honolulu’s city council has finally had enough, budgeting $1 million for the stairs’ removal.

“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,” Honolulu mayor Rick Blangiardi, said in an interview with Honolulu Civil Beat. “Fundamentally, it is inappropriate to have a high-use tourist attraction entering through this residential neighborhood, which lacks in the capacity to provide appropriate facilities or parking.”

There is opposition to the plan. Friends of Haiku Stairs, a nonprofit group devoted to the official reopening of the trail, has proposed a course of action that it says will allow hikers to use the trail safely.

“The plan has evolved over decades with input from experts from all walks of life including engineers, hikers, teachers, botanists, medical experts and historians,” wrote Vernon Andsell, president of Friends of Haiku Stairs, in an editorial for Honolulu Civil Beat. “It proposes that the Haiku Stairs can be reopened and operated at zero cost to Hawaii taxpayers and would leave the city and state governments $2.14 million better off than the proposal to remove them. Visitors would be charged to climb the stairs, and this would cover the costs of security, insurance, maintenance, staffing and educational programs.”

Andsell also called the Haiku Stairs “probably one of the safest hiking trails in Hawaii.”

The removal of the stairs could begin as early as next year.