In a turnabout for the city, mayor seeks $1M to remove Haiku Stairs

Updated: Apr. 15, 2021 at 5:00 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Momentum is building to remove Haiku Stairs.

The proposed budget for Honolulu, which is nearing approval in the City Council, includes $1 million to dismantle the stairway. The amount was added by councilmembers, and the Mayor told Hawaii News Now he supports the move.

The mayor says the former military facility brings too much liability, which is a significant shift from former Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s efforts to find a partner to maintain and manage the trail.

The Council heard public testimony on the proposal Wednesday and some residents applaud the plan.

“It’s got to come down,” said Allen Walterman, who submitted his testimony remotely.

“I live in the Haiku neighborhood. Today already, I had four people trespassing through my backyard to get up to the stairs. They bring trash. They’re rude. They’re ruining the land. This has got to end.”

He added, “The city has been talking about it for at least 20 years.”

Critics of the proposal, which include The Friends of Haiku Stairs, contend the removal plan is being rushed.

“I think this is a ridiculous proposal that they’re trying to push through,” said Vernon Ansdell, president of the Friends of Haiku Stairs. “At the very least, I wish we had more notice about a meeting, so we could actually submit testimony properly.”

Last month, Honolulu police reported six arrests and issued more than 90 citations to those sneaking into the off-limits trail.

Andsell said he doesn’t condone the illegal access, but contends it’s not grounds for complete closure.

“Although we agree that absolutely illegal trespassing to access the stairs is not acceptable, but we feel very strongly that the best solution is not to spend a million dollars of taxpayers’ money to remove the stairs,” Andsell said. “It makes so much more sense to so many more people to solve the problem of illegal trespassing by reopening the stairs under managed access.”

If the council passes the budget, it would go into effect June 1, and then it would be up to the Mayor to use the money to hire contractors to remove the stairs.

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