Parking issue
halts ‘Stairway’

The Haiku Stairs will
remain closed until the city
can reconcile with Hope Chapel

The Haiku Stairs grand reopening was to have been today.

Instead, plans to restore public access to the "Stairway to Heaven" on Oahu's Windward side have stalled, again.

In what City Councilwoman Barbara Marshall called "the 11th hour," Hope Chapel of Kaneohe Bay informed the city last week that its parent organization, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, would have to approve any agreement between the city and the church to allow trail access over church-controlled property.

Dean Choy, a local attorney working for the church, confirmed that the person from Hope Chapel who signed an earlier agreement was not authorized to do so, and said he is working with city officials on a draft agreement.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Ken Ito (D, Kaneohe) is holding an informational meeting about Haiku Stairs with officials from the state Hawaiian Homelands, Land & Natural Resources and Transportation departments at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Room 105 of Hale Akoakoa at Windward Community College.

"I don't understand why he's having a briefing on a city project when no city people are invited," Marshall said. Marshall and her staff cannot attend because they will be in Waimanalo holding a previously scheduled meeting with constituents, she said.

City spokeswoman Carol Costa could not be reached for comment on whether administration officials will attend Ito's meeting.

Ito said he wants residents to have a chance to air their concerns. Residents of the Castle Hills neighborhood near Hope Chapel are wondering if they will experience hikers' cars blocking their mailboxes and trash cans or people trespassing through their property, he said.

Those are the complaints residents of the Haiku neighborhood have had over the past year since the city completed its $875,000 repair of the 3,992 metal steps. Though the stairs have never been reopened, many hikers have ignored that and used the Haiku neighborhood as a staging area for their ascents.

Letting hikers park in the Hope Chapel parking lot was supposed to ease the burden on residents, Marshall said.

Since late June, Honolulu police officers have been posted at the base of the stairs on weekends to turn hikers away.

"It's been a little better" since then, said Marianne Nesmith, who lives on Kuneki Way.

Ralph Faufata, who lives on Kuneki Street, said many hikers are starting their climbs before the police arrive in the morning. When they descend the stairs, the officer gives them a written warning, he said, but they already get what they want.

Some hikers are respectful to residents. Others "use water hoses, leave rubbish and have no respect for people, property or possessions," Faufata said.

Alvin Wilson and Shannon Ernestberg, who live just a few blocks from the Hope Chapel driveway, said they think having hikers use the church parking lot would be a good solution.

David Shinbara, a member of the Castle Hills Community Board, wants to know whether the Hope Chapel gate will be open early enough for hikers and what will happen on Sundays, when the parking lot is full of churchgoers' cars, or Mondays, when the church offices are usually closed.

Shinbara also thinks either the church or the city should provide security guards for the parking lot.


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