Friday, July 27, 2001

Part of the metal steps of Haiku Valley's "Stairway to Heaven"
can be seen in the main photo.

Fixing a Stairway
to Heaven

A repair job costing $875,000
begins in 2 weeks on 3,922
steps in Haiku Valley

By Lisa Asato

City planners hope future hikers at the "Stairway to Heaven" will someday look down on a beautiful 600-acre nature preserve in Haiku Valley.

As part of a proposed master plan to create the preserve, city officials said yesterday they will spend $875,000 to repair Haiku Valley's popular hiking spot, which has been closed since 1987.

"This is the first time the stairs will be brought to a level serviceable to the general public," said City Councilman Steve Holmes, who joined other city officials yesterday at a news conference near the foot of the stairs.

The stairs were never meant to be open to the public, he said. They were first built by the Navy in 1942 to access transmission facilities at the top of the ridge. The wooden stairs were later replaced with those made with galvanized steel.

Ikaika Nakoa provided security to keep hikers away
from the stairway near the U.S. Coast Guard's old
Omega Station. He said he had turned away 15
hikers before 1 p.m. yesterday.

Holmes, who has strongly supported repairing the 3,922-step stairway as part of the nature preserve plan, said city liability will not be a major concern once the trail is opened.

"For all of the years the stairs have been open, there's never been a documented case of somebody being seriously injured," he said. "You literally can't get lost. There's only two ways to go -- up and down -- and there's railings on both sides."

He also said the city is looking into having a nonprofit group operate and maintain the stairs, which would provide a "legal firewall" for the city because state law grants protections to nonprofits.

Repairs will be done by general contractor The Nakoa Companies Inc.

Rae Loui, director of the city Department of Design and Construction, joined Holmes in asking the public to avoid the trail during renovations, slated to end in October 2002 at the latest. Loui said security will be posted daily at the gated entrance of the access road and at the bottom of the stairs during daylight hours.

Joe Galindo, field superintendent for Nakoa, said work at the site will begin in the next two weeks after supplies are flown by helicopter to the top of the stairs, 2,800 feet above sea level.

Galindo said some of the worst damage to the galvanized steel stairway is at the higher elevations, where stairs are missing in some areas and loosened bolts need to be replaced.

Construction will begin at the top one-third of the stairs to avoid bad weather expected to start in two or three months, he said.

Under contract with the city, Nakoa is also in charge of securing the site during construction.

Galindo acknowledged the job will not be easy. "There's a million and one ways to get up here," he said.

At right, Austin Nakoa showed where people had
cut the fence to get into the restricted area.

He said neighboring residents have told him of strangers knocking on their doors at 6:30 in the morning asking for directions to the stairs.

Holmes said there is one road into the Haiku Stairs, and public access concerns remain to be dealt with.

Regarding plans for the nature preserve, Holmes said the city owns most of the valley and has yet to start the negotiating process to acquire the remaining 147 acres from the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources is charged with overseeing trails, but, Holmes said, the "city is the only agency willing to step up to the plate and put the money in to get the job done."

Loui said $100,000 has been appropriated to draw up a master plan for the preserve.

The master plan, including an environmental impact statement, will be presented by consultant Wil Chee Planning Inc. for public feedback in September, she said.

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin