Be careful what you wish for: Hundreds respond to BWS call for comments on Haiku Stairs

Be careful what you wish for: Hundreds respond to BWS call for comments on Haiku Stairs
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

KANEOHE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Board of Water Supply wanted feedback on the future of the Haiku Stairs -- and it got it.

Nearly 700 suggestions poured in, about two-thirds of them just before Tuesday's close of the public comment period.

"Most of the comments were very short emails saying please don't take down the stairs, please find a way to keep them up, please take down the stairs, it's impacting, it's a negative, it's affecting my quality of life," BWS spokeswoman Kathleen Pahinui said.

Pahinui estimates that 70 percent of the first 230 comments urged BWS to allow managed access to the stairs.

Vernon Ansdell, president of Friends of Haiku Stairs, is encouraged by that.

"There's so much support for preserving the stairs and getting them reopened for the general public that I have no real doubt at all that we're going to win this in the end," he said.

The stairs have been closed to the public since 1987 over vandalism and liability concerns, but that doesn't stop people from trespassing to make the scenic climb up the Koolau.

The Board of Water Supply is tasked with oversight of the stairway and pays about $200,000 a year for a security service. The board wants the stairs removed.

The other options are legal managed access and having BWS transfer oversight to another government agency.

People who submitted comments also made suggestions that included setting a daily cap on the number of hikers allowed on the stairs and creating a parking site at the empty Omega station.

Pahinui said that's problematic.

"It belongs to a different landowner. We have to see if that landowner is amenable to that idea, and what would that be, and what legalities are involved and how would we deal with those legalities," she said.

Other people suggested an admission fee for the hike at $25 or $50 per person and a shuttle service to take people to and from the site without trespassing.

Ansdell believes those are good ideas.

"You can get up there by paying if our managed access plan falls into place," he said.

The comments will be used to prepare a draft Environmental Impact Statement.

Up next will be a series of studies on environmental and cultural concerns, access issues, and a cost estimate for dismantling the stairway. The studies will take six to nine months.

Pahinui said BWS promises a thorough vetting of all substantive suggestions.

"Now that we're going to get into the weeds on this, things may pop up that we weren't even aware of," she said.

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