Groups call for city to reopen Stairway to Heaven

Groups call for city to reopen Stairway to Heaven
Published: Mar. 25, 2013 at 11:13 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 26, 2013 at 12:17 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It's one of the most popular yet forbidden trails on Oahu.

Today, there's a new push to open Kaneohe's Stairway to Heaven to the public.

"Let's open up access, let's give a different access and managed access program," said Jill Radke, vice president of the nonprofit Friends of Haiku Stairs.

The City Council's Park Committee today heard testimony from dozens of people like Radke, who urged the city to implement a management plan just like it did for Hanauma Bay.

"We look at it as a valuable asset. It clearly is for education, for fitness and it has been a unique part of the community for 60 years," said John Goody, former president of the Friends.

Police and fire officials, however, want to see area closed off, saying it's dangerous.

During the past two years, fire fighters have rescued about two dozen people who suffered injuries on the treacherous hike. That include one man who died of a heart attack near the top of the trail last year.

"We think it's risky to the public, it's risky to ourselves and we would like it shut down," said HFD Captain Dale Mosher.

Many Kaneohe residents said they also oppose the plan. In recent years, they say their neighborhood has been inundated by early morning hikers who trample through their yards and wake up their dogs and family members.

Hikers, meanwhile, say the trail is no dangerous as fire officials say. They believe that a management plan -- even privatization -- would resolve the access problems and will make the area safer for hikers and residents

They add that the trail offers a unique hiking experience that attracts people from all over the world.

"Being up there, there's nothing like it honestly. The views are amazing," Ewa Beach resident Riley Silva, who has hiked the trail 10 times.

The City Council's Parks Committee said it will form a working group that will include hikers, police, fire officials and neighborhood groups to study the issue.

Meanwhile, Mayor Kirk Caldwell issued today, saying residents' concern over of public access should be resolved first before he will sign off on any plans to reopen the trail.