Haiku Stairs
land swap on hold

The Council's budget panel wants
estimates on trail maintenance

A land swap that could provide access to Haiku Stairs is on hold until the Harris administration provides cost estimates for operating and maintaining them.

City & County of Honolulu The City Council's Budget Committee deferred action yesterday on trading 53 acres of undeveloped city land in Kapolei for 65 acres in Kaneohe's Haiku Valley.

"There's no money budgeted for restrooms or a parking lot," noted Budget Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi. "We don't want another Natatorium, where we assume responsibility for it and get all these problems and not enough money to maintain it."

The city administration and the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, which owns Haiku Valley, have been negotiating a swap since last year. The proposal would trade Hawaiian Homes' Haiku Valley parcel for a city tract in Varona Village.

Ben Henderson, Hawaiian Homes deputy director, said the Varona Village acreage might provide room for up to 300 home sites. The Haiku Valley land is not appropriate for housing development, he said.

The Haiku Stairs, also known as the "Stairway to Heaven," are 3,922 steps up the side of the Koolau Mountain range that offer hardy climbers a breathtaking view. Built by the Navy, then transferred to the Coast Guard, the stairs were going to be torn down in 1987. Hikers protested, and the city eventually spent $875,000 to repair the stairs as a hiking trail.

The repairs were completed in 2002, but the trail has never opened because the city has not obtained land access to the base of the stairs. Some hikers angered nearby residents by trespassing on their property to reach the stairs, which then spurred the city to hire security guards to keep hikers off the stairs.

City Managing Director Ben Lee said yesterday that he was frustrated by the committee's postponement of what he called a "win-win" situation.

Kobayashi set a Dec. 31 deadline for the administration to provide more information about city plans and costs for the Haiku Valley.

Lee said he could provide the information within a week.

"I think if we're going to open the stairs, we have to do this," said Councilwoman Barbara Marshall, who represents Kaneohe, referring to the land exchange.

If the matter is postponed for the next administration to handle, it will cause further delays, she said.

State Rep. Ken Ito (D, Kaneohe) said he wants to ensure that there is security, fencing and traffic mitigation when the stairs open "to ensure that residents do not bear the brunt of more trespasses."

John Flanigan, chairman of the Friends of Haiku Stairs, said he is convinced that having an established parking area near the stairs will end the problem of trespassing.



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