Residents say that despite signs and fences, people continue to hike Haiku Stairs.

Haiku Stairs
barriers fail

Residents near the
yet-to-reopen trail say
hikers routinely ignore
fences and a guard

As the city negotiates legal access to the Haiku Stairs, residents near the trail say dozens of hikers take on the stairs weekly despite a guard at the stair's base, and locked fences and warning signs at the main entrances.

"As long as it's there, it's a temptation," said homeowner Lyvonne Loui, who built a fence on her property to keep hikers from trespassing through her yard to get to the trail.

The city and county, which spent $875,000 to renovate the trail, is in negotiations with the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands on a possible land swap to allow access to the stairs, said state Rep. Ken Ito.

Department officials say no real progress has been made in talks over land at the base of the stairs, which could become a main access route.

The popular hike of 3,992 stairs up the Koolau Mountains, also known as the "Stairway to Heaven," was set to be opened on Aug. 18. No new reopening date has been scheduled.

Ito (D, Kaneohe) held an informational meeting last month for residents to voice their concerns about the trail's reopening. He said the city should consider other measures of deterring hikers from using the trail while it is closed, including taking off the first dozen or so steps from the stairs.

Currently, the city has a guard posted at the stair's base and has locked the fences at the hike's main entrances. But that's not enough to keep determined hikers out.

Brandon, who asked that his last name be withheld, lives near Haiku Gardens and hikes the stairs regularly with friends to go hunting for boar.

Yesterday, he had a recent kill cooking on the grill.

"We jump the gate, walk up the road" and dodge the guard, he said.

Haiku resident Chris Anderson said he's counted a steady 20 to 25 people jumping over a bolted fence near his home to a road that leads to the trail.

On holidays, that number can increase to six or seven dozen hikers, he said.

"I've never begrudged anyone in going up," said Anderson, a member of the nonprofit Friends of Haiku Stairs.

But others have.

Rae Leong, who lives two doors down from another entrance to the hike, said the stairs have "caused the neighbors themselves to get really angry."

"No one wants this in their backyard," she said, adding that even if access can be agreed on, hikers will still harm the neighboring community.

Residents on her quiet street -- where children still play in the road -- have been hit hard by the trail's illegal use, she said. Hikers leave everything from water bottles to baby diapers in yards, walk through flower beds and park in front of driveways, trash cans or mailboxes.

When told that the stairs are closed, some hikers have become belligerent or rude, Leong said.

The problems have moved at least one homeowner in the area to put her home up for sale. Others have promised to do the same if the stairs are reopened, Leong said.

Meanwhile, no new ground has been made in securing access through Hope Chapel of Kaneohe Bay, which told the city in August that its parent organization, Church of the Foursquare Gospel, would have to approve any access agreement.

Despite a sign on the church's gate that says there is no access to the stairs from the church, there have been at least four or five hikers a week trying to get to the trail, said Glory Yoshida, an administrative assistant at the church.

"We have had a lot of people trying to get in," she said. "The sign doesn't mean a lot to people."

Castle Hills resident Glenn Getty is building a 10-foot-tall wall around his property to keep Haiku Stairs hikers out.

Getty's home is next to the chapel's entrance gate, and recently two hikers were locked in when the gates were closed while they were hiking. He said they tried to drive through his backyard with a pickup truck.

The truck got stuck in a small ravine, and the hikers backed out and called a chapel security guard to open the gate, Getty said.

"I don't want all these people up here with me," he said. "I don't want that for my community and my home."


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