I have never hiked to the top of the Haiku Stairs for two reasons: I don’t want to run through private property to access the trail and I don’t have the hiking skills or stamina to get to the top of the stairs via an arduous, long and dangerous hike via Middle Ridge.

I have been waiting for the landowner, the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, to find a way to upkeep the stairs and open it to the public. But alas, the BWS prefers to tear down this historical treasure. This is a crying shame because once it’s gone, it’s gone for good.

Many kamaaina hikers are passionate about saving the Haiku Stairs. They were built in the 1940s and are classified as a historic property.

I have friends who have hiked the stairs and I’ve seen their photos. The views are breathtaking and my hiker friends told me that contrary to popular belief, the stairs are very safe (as long as you stay on the trail).  The 2 a.m. wakeup, and every step of the 4,000 steps was worth it to get to the top to watch the sunrise. They said it was an indescribable feeling and it’s one that I would love to experience for myself.

Like many secret spots in Hawaii (and other places), Instagram is to blame for BWS wanting to get rid of this treasure. The sad reality, though, is that social media is here to stay and we need to learn to live with it. When it comes to trails with world class views, hikers will access those whether they are legal or not.

The Haiku Stairs offer breathtaking views. But the Board of Water Supply wants to tear down the property. Nick Grube/Civil Beat/2013

Tearing down the stairs is the easiest solution for BWS staff who are tired of hearing from squeaky Haiku Village residents. By tearing down the stairs, they can kill two birds with one stone: appease those residents and sleep easy that they will not be liable for hikers getting injured or killed on the steps.

To legitimize this, the BWS commissioned Group 70 to do an environmental impact study. The study was completed last month.

They wrote: “The Haiku Stairs are a potential liability for BWS. BWS’ objective is to eliminate its liability as continued management and operation of Haiku Stairs is not consistent with its mission to provide, safe, dependable, and affordable water. Eliminating BWS liability can be accomplished in two ways: 1) the proposed action to remove Haiku Stairs, or 2) the alternative to convey the Haiku Stairs parcel to a public or private entity.”

Tearing down the stairs is the easy answer but easy answers are not always the best ones. The Friends of Haiku Stairs have offered to manage the trail and steps. They do regular cleanups and maintenance on the stairs. They have even proposed a legal route to the trailhead that most residents in the area seem to like.

Therefore, BWS could easily convey the Haiku Stairs parcel to FHS or another entity that is willing to upkeep and manage access.

I think most hikers would be willing to pay a fee to hike the stairs. The number of daily users can be limited to a safe number with local residents getting priority.

Charge tourists a much higher price and use money from the fees to maintain the stairs. Post adequate warning signs at the trailhead and along the trail. Have every hiker sign a watertight liability waiver and a note to pay for any rescues at the trail entrance.

In addition, pass a law similar to the proposed Senate Bill 2195 that would give both state, city and public landowners liability protection as long as they explicitly state that hikers are allowed to access their lands at their own risk.

(SB 2195 is for cultural practitioners but a similar law for hikers and beachgoers should be passed as soon as possible.)

Most hikers would be willing to pay a fee to hike the stairs.

It is true that we live in a litigious country but when the city and state settle just about every accident that happens in nature, it sends a terrible message: sue us because we will settle. There will always be clowns who will try to do anything for the ’gram by going off-trail or hanging upside on swings, but we cannot shut down every trail and beach because we are afraid of being sued.

People who don’t heed warnings should not get a taxpayer-funded payout for getting hurt. The city and state need to hire excellent lawyers and set a precedent that they will no longer settle accidents that happen on our trails or beaches.

I hope that the city decides to save the Haiku Stairs. It is a historical treasure that is world famous. It is on public land so there is no excuse other than lack of courage and the will to do the right thing. Hand over the land to another organization but please do not tear down the stairs.

The stairs are in the world’s top 10 hikes in the National Geographic endangered trails list. Let future generations of hikers experience hiking the stairs in a safe and legal manner.

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