More Haiku Stairs Emergency Air Rescues Follows Criminal Trespassing

A Final Ascent: Bigger Hawaii Issues Afoot in Controversial Haiku Stairs Ending

The Haiku Stairs, many of us have referred to as Hawaii’s “stairway to heaven,” are at long last on a definitive path to deconstruction. This closure marks the end of a legendary trail but does nothing to end the longstanding controversy surrounding one of Oahu’s most famous landmarks ever. And it is even bigger than that, as the entire issue, mired in controversy for years, speaks to much bigger issues impacting the islands and visitors to Hawaii.

For decades, the nearly 4k step journey to Pu‘u Keahiakahoe’s summit has captivated adventurers and Instagrammers alike, who are drawn by panoramic vistas that are arguably among the most breathtaking in Hawaii. However, the stairs’ allure, intensified via social media, has been a double-edged sword, which led to trespassing and safety concerns that have long-troubled local authorities and residents alike.

Now, the the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), together with the City and County of Honolulu, announced a complete closure of the Moanalua Section of the Honolulu Watershed Forest Reserve and the Moanalua Valley Neighborhood Park, which will remain until after the stairs’ dismantling. That decision comes after repeated incidents where hikers ignored partial closures, that resulted in an unknown number of citations and even arrests by Honolulu Police Department officers.

“Dismantling the Haiku Stairs is not just a matter of removing a physical structure but addressing the very real threats it poses to both public safety and the preservation of our natural resources… It has become increasingly clear that dozens of hikers have ignored the partial closure.”

Dawn Chang, DLNR Chair.

The end of the stairs is said to have been necessary in order to prevent further erosion and environmental damage, exacerbated by the trail’s popularity.

Despite the city’s ever more clear stance on the matter, the decision has remained controversial. The Friends of Haiku Stairs (FOHS), a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the stairs, has expressed its profound disappointment. “The removal of the Haiku Stairs is a tragedy for both history enthusiasts and the local community. Managed access could have been a sustainable alternative,” according to Vernon Ansdell, FOHS spokesperson. Their efforts, including lawsuits aimed at halting the demolition, reflect a significant difference of opinion on management of Oahu’s coveted but troubled trail.

Haiku Stairs as emblematic of broader issues in Hawaii tourism.

The final saga of the Haiku Stairs plays out, it represents bigger challenges faced by Hawaii as relates to its natural wonders. That is, the balancing of the public’s desire for access with concomitant issues of public safety and conservation. As the door shuts on the Haiku Stairs saga, our hope is that Hawaii can learn something from the stairs’ troubled past, in relation to better future management of the islands’ natural resources in today’s age.

For Hawaii visitors and residents alike, the end of the Haiku Stairs serves as a reminder of the delicate interplay ongoing throughout the state. And, as Hawaii continues to navigate these waters, we can only hope this becomes part of a new chapter in better governance, sustainable tourism, and conservation. It is from that perspective that Beat of Hawaii is following the continuing saga of the Haiku Stairs.

Haiku Stairs: $3M Demolition or Grand Restoration?

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7 thoughts on “A Final Ascent: Bigger Hawaii Issues Afoot in Controversial Haiku Stairs Ending”

  1. The “Friends of Haiku” group which fought and lost the removal of the stairs has a large component of the “Guides” who illegally bring hikers to the top and make a very fine living doing so (I’m sure they report it for taxes – yeah right). They do it by trespassing in people’s yards, parking on private property, destroying fences climbing over them, scaring residents in the area at 4 am with groups of strangers moving through their neighborhood and often cutting through back yards. I have no sympathy for them whatsoever. How do I know this to be true? Ask my elderly ohana member who lives there and has to put up with it.

    Best regards

    1. Jay
      Thank you very much for being honest in explaining that locals disrespect the land and rules. I’m tired of everyone blaming just the tourists. Sorry your family member has to deal with this problem but it just leads to the same reason Money. Pure Profit.

  2. Here’s a thought: cut up the stairs and sell the pieces on ebay. Many who have hiked them may like a piece of history. Put the money towards the Rail! lol

  3. Aloha🌴..I’ve never hiked the trail..would love too, you wanna’ know what..people leaving their garbage behind, “Mahalos for respecting us”(I say sarcastically)!!..they don’t get it and never will till it hits them in their face-and even then🤦🤦lol so stay home please ok unless you say Mahalo too locals when you’re Trippin’ around smile all time courteously..come visit us ya🙏🌴🤙🐾🌺🌊
    ❤️✨ Mahalo, Keoni

  4. Great (and worthy) take. But let’s not put All the blame on tourists. Locals broke the rules as well as mainland thrill-seekers and Tik-Tokkers. Social media killed the Stairway to Heaven. If any “attraction” begged for a reservation system, it might have been this one. Of course, then you would have to monetize it to pay for access and security and maintenance and insurance, the last of which would probably be cost prohibitive in itself. It’s a shame to close a “bucket-list” kind of adventure. Social Media. It’s why we can’t have good things.

  5. Build a chairlift like ski resorts to the top. Descend with a zipline to the bottom over looking the stairs. Nobody then needs to climb and the historical landmark remains untouched. Problem solved. Make it a fun attraction.

  6. Closing it down is ridiculous. Will we do the same with other Hawaii historic landmarks? No! Put the money into managed care. Adopt FOHS plan. Do what we did for Hanauma Bay. Give Hawaii residents good-paying jobs to be part of the managing team. Same with all of Hawaii’s natural resources.

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