Land swap set
for Haiku Stairs

The City Council is poised to finalize a land-swap agreement with the state that will give hikers access to the long-closed Haiku Stairs in the Koolau Mountains.

City & County of Honolulu It has taken more than two years for the city and Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to reach a deal, which will likely be finalized early next week, said the department's spokesman, Lloyd Yonenaka.

But the agreement still needs City Council approval.

The City Council's budget committee is set to take up the issue Wednesday, said committee Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi. If it approves the deal, it will be sent to the City Council for a final vote.

Under the proposed agreement, the city will exchange 52.7 acres in Ewa for the state's 65.6 acres in Haiku Valley, Yonenaka said. Both properties have been appraised at $3.1 million.

The Ewa swap consists of two parcels: 33.2 acres in the city's undeveloped Varona Village and another 19.5-acre parcel nearby. DHHL plans to develop the sites, Yonenaka said.

"We've been waiting a long time," he said. "The intent was to always, obviously, make an exchange."

The swap is aimed at securing public access for the stairs, which the city spent $875,000 in 2002 to restore.

The 3,922 metal stairs, also known as the "Stairway to Heaven," have been closed to the public since 1987, and were set to reopen after being renovated in June 2002. However, the city could not negotiate an access for hikers to get to the base of the stairs.

City officials had hoped to work out a temporary access through Hope Chapel of Kaneohe Bay in October 2002, but that agreement fell apart.

City spokeswoman Carol Costa and Managing Director Ben Lee did not return calls for comment yesterday.

John Goody, Friends of Haiku Stairs president, said the progress was good news. The group was formed after the stairs were closed in 1987.

"I'm gratified that it's proceeded to that point," he said, adding the access resolution is likely to resolve community concerns about hikers crossing through residents' private property and parking in nearby neighborhoods to get to the stairs.



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