The saga of the Haiku Stairs – better known as the “Stairway to Heaven” hike – may soon be coming to an end on Oahu.
This weekend, local news reported that the city of Honolulu has selected a contractor to remove the stairs, a move that would put an end to decades of controversy and safety concerns surrounding the infamous hike.
The Haiku Stairs is an illegal hike on the east coast of Oahu. It has been off-limits for a long time (think decades), but is still accessed by many people visiting the islands. Looking at photos, it’s easy to see why – the views are sweeping, and the staircase unique and adventurous.
But, there’s a greater story that the photos don’t tell, one that includes a myriad of safety concerns as well as “neighborhood issues” such as illegal parking, congestion in residential areas, and trespassing on private property.
Debate over the hike has raged amongst locals for a long time. Originally built by the military in the 1940s, the stairs were officially closed to the public in 1987 after they were deemed unsafe.
That didn’t stop people from accessing them, though, and so in 2003 the city paid close to a million dollars in taxpayer money to repair the stairs with hopes of reopening the hike.
They never did reopen, however, due to on-going safety concerns as well as complaints from residents over trespassing, litter, and other disrespectful behavior by visitors at the trailhead.
Debate slowed down but has popped up once again in the past five years. Advocacy groups have continued to petition for the stairs to be reopened, while the government has held firm that there are too many concerns.
Injuries and rescues of those hiking the stairs illegally have not helped the case and have further irritated the local community, who have pushed the government to do more to stop the illegal access.
Threats to take down the stairs have swirled for a long time, and proponents of the hike have promised to keep fighting.
But this new report suggests that the government is indeed moving forward. Though there is no timetable attached to the process – keeping the door open for things to change – the selection of a contractor is a step we haven’t seen before.
Anyone considering “one last go” at the illegal hike should be aware that the fine is $1,000. More importantly, travelers should always respect local rules and regulations, regardless of where they go in the world.