After the Board of Water Supply announced its desire to tear up Oahu’s famous Stairway to Heaven by 2022, Mayor Kirk Caldwell said on Monday that he wants the city to take over the site.

“I have always wanted to preserve Haiku Stairs, but it’s important to provide relief to the community around the entrance to the facility and to ensure the experience is made safer for hikers and first responders,” Caldwell said in an emailed statement, adding that he encourages citizens to give feedback to a draft environmental impact statement released on Sunday.

“Meanwhile, it is my intent for the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation to take possession of the stairs, and to look at potential private proposals to manage access.”

He did not provide further details about liability or cost.

Hikers visit Stairway to Heaven, an unsanctioned tourist attraction in Kaneohe.

Nick Grube/Civil Beat

The mayor’s statement conflicts with the Board of Water Supply’s environmental impact statement. That report said the city had been noncommittal about taking over the off-limits tourist attraction. As a result, the board said it proposed removing the stairs to wash its own hands of liability.

The closed mountain path in Kaneohe has been closed to the public since 1987, but that hasn’t stopped trespassing hikers from visiting and posting photos on social media.

The Board of Water Supply, which owns the stairs and land, wants to spend $986,266 to eliminate the liability and the ongoing security costs the area requires, the agency said in the environmental impact statement. It costs $250,000 for security to deter trespassers from accessing Haiku Stairs, the report said.

The agency did say it is open to alternatives to removal but that no better options had emerged.

“If a solution for keeping Haiku Stairs cannot be achieved, then BWS will have no choice but to remove Haiku Stairs,” the report said.

Caldwell’s announcement may please members of the Kaneohe Neighborhood Board, which passed a resolution supporting a managed access plan.

“The basic concept was to move access away from the Haiku neighborhood and, via a permitted and controlled access point, serve the needs of those wanting the thrill of the stairs and be respectful of property owners not interested in the thrill of trespassers,” said board chairman Mo Radke.

The Board of Water Supply will brief the Kaneohe board on the options at 7 p.m. on July 18 at Benjamin Parker Elementary School.




This news can't wait.

Every day, journalists in nonprofit newsrooms like Civil Beat dig deeper into the raw news of the day to deliver in-depth and investigative reporting that engages communities, advances solutions, and demands accountability. This news can’t wait. So why would you?

Give today and NewsMatch will double the impact of your donation. We’ll even throw in a limited-edition Civil Beat t-shirt!

About the Author