City offers
Haiku Stairs
to state

Gov. Lingle says the mayor's
proposal for reopening the
popular hike is under review

The city should transfer ownership of Haiku Stairs to the state, which would be better suited to reopening and managing the popular Windward hike, Mayor Mufi Hannemann says.

The state Division of Forestry and Wildlife's Na Ala Hele trails program would be well-suited to administering the stairs as a hiking trail, Hannemann said in an April 19 letter to Gov. Linda Lingle.

The 3,922 metal steps up the side of the Koolau Mountain range, also known as the "Stairway to Heaven," 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 them.

Repairs were completed in 2002, but the trail has never opened because the city has not obtained access to land at 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 steps.

The Harris administration had proposed trading 53 acres of undeveloped Varona Village land in Ewa for 65 acres in Kaneohe's Haiku Valley, owned by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. That swap remains on hold because of restrictions on the city land proposed for trade.

Lingle has asked the departments that would be affected by Hannemann's proposal -- Transportation, Land and Natural Resources, and Hawaiian Home Lands -- to review it, spokesman Russell Pang said.

Hannemann spokesman Bill Brennan said yesterday that the mayor's letter is "strictly exploratory" and that he hasn't yet received a response from the state.

"Some Council members have had concerns about liability, and there are still unresolved issues dealing with access and easements and the like," Brennan said. "The mayor's feeling is that everything about Haiku Stairs points to the state."

John Flanigan, president of Friends of Haiku Stairs, called the climb "one of the outstanding outdoor activities on the island." In addition to recreation and gorgeous views, the stairs offer access for scientists studying plants, animals and geology at varying elevations and is part of Kaneohe's wartime history, Flanigan said.

Flanigan said his nonprofit group will present information about the stairs to Young.

"I don't know whether to be optimistic or not," Flanigan said yesterday of the new development. "I'd like to think that the state would be interested."

City & County of Honolulu

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