KANEOHE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - "A great first step, but we have a long way to go."
That's how Honolulu City Councilman Ikaika Anderson described the Haiku Stairs Work Group's final report. The task force, comprised of thirteen individuals representing different sectors of the community, was formed at Anderson's request to come up with a comprehensive recommendation with what to do about the popular, but illegal and dangerous hike in Kaneohe.
The group's recommendation is a managed re-opening of the stairs with a controlled access point through Windward Community College. That came as a surprise to the college, which issued a statement, which said, "Although the Windward CC Chancellor discussed the possibilities of cooperating with HSWG, he also cautioned the Group that no commitments would be made until a written proposal from HSWG was submitted."
The report acknowledges that there are no trails from the campus to the stairs, and hikers would have to park elsewhere, like nearby Kaneohe District Park, which is already heavily used.
"Accordingly the college considers the Final Report by HSWG to be premature and incomplete," the college statement concluded.
The task force rejected Hope Chapel Kaneohe Bay as an access point, which was more than okay with church leaders who've been trying to keep hikers off their property for years.
"We wanted to avoid that and to get people on the stairs, and this was one of the choices that we had," said group member Vernon Ansdell, M.D., who said access would be limited and managed.
"It would be small groups," he said. "We would limit the number of people who could go up the stairs on any one day. It would be an educational experience is what we're thinking. There would be a lot of education about Hawaiian cultural aspects."
Others are still concerned about the liability of reopening the stairs, along with inevitable helicopter rescues.
"I am a taxpayer, and we are constantly hearing about people in the news who are in distress in different locations, and this is of a big concern," said Kaneohe resident Catherine Cooper.
"The next step for my office is meeting together with Mayor Kirk Caldwell and the Board of Water Supply Chief Engineer, as the BWS owns the stairs" said Anderson.
The Board will decide if it will allow access to the stairs, and in what capacity. If that happens, Anderson envisions a third party bearing some of the burden.
"Perhaps we can transfer any costs over to the nonprofit or third party that would implement the business model to open the stairs".
Tearing down the stairs was considered, but ultimately decided against. The estimated cost to remove the stairs was between three and five million dollars.
Anderson admits, there is still a long way to go, but the findings of the group is a big step in the right direction.
"I'm excited just by the fact that the working group got together, and after 90 days they came out with the finding yes we should open the stairs, versus no we shouldn't move further, this is it".