Honolulu to DESTROY its famous 'Stairway to Heaven' mountain trail over concerns popular Instagram site is too dangerous

  • Honolulu City Council voted unanimously last Wednesday to remove the Haiku Stairs or 'Stairway to Heaven' 
  • Mayor Rick Blangardi must approve the city budget to finalize the move
  • City officials argue in a resolution that the site is too dangerous and leads to a surge in vandalism each year
  • The steep 2,480-foot climb includes 3,922 narrow steps 
  • Site brings in about 4,000 visitors each year, even though it's illegal to climb and violators face $1,000 fines
  • The only recorded death at the site was a man who had a heart attack while climbing
  • An advocacy group rallied against the council's decision and wants the site to be open to the public again

Advertisement

Officials in Honolulu planning to destroy a popular hiking trail and Instagram-worthy site that draws thousands of visitors each year, arguing that it's too dangerous and its influx of visitors is a detriment to the local community.

The Honolulu City Council voted unanimously last Wednesday to remove the Haiku Stairs or 'Stairway to Heaven' and set aside $1million to get the job done. The next step is for Mayor Rick Blangardi to approve the city budget and finalize the move to destroy the site. 

In a resolution on its agenda, the council says that it is 'urging the City Administration to remove the Haiku Stairs and its accessory structures to stop trespassing, reduce disturbances to local neighborhoods, increase public safety, remove potential liability to the City, and protect the environment.'

The U.S. Navy built the stairs in 1940 as a way of providing access to a secret military radio base used in World War 2. 

But the Coast Guard closed the stairs in 1987 because of a spike in vandalism and liability worries, which came after the attraction was featured in an episode of 'Magnum P.I.' and drove visitation up to 200 visitors a day, according to the Honolulu Civil Beat.

Nevertheless, the site still brings in about 4,000 visitors each year, even though it's illegal to climb and violators could face $1,000 fines. 

The steep 2,480-foot climb includes 3,922 narrow steps built into Oahu's Koolau mountain range and allows hikers to feel like their heads are literally in the clouds.

The Honolulu City Council voted unanimously last Wednesday to remove the state's Haiku Stairs or 'Stairway to Heaven'

 The Honolulu City Council voted unanimously last Wednesday to remove the state's Haiku Stairs or 'Stairway to Heaven'

The site brings in about 4,000 visitors each year, even though it's illegal to climb and violators face $1,000 fines

The site brings in about 4,000 visitors each year, even though it's illegal to climb and violators face $1,000 fines

The steep 2,480-foot climb includes 3,922 narrow steps built into Oahu's Koolau mountain range and allows hikers to feel like their heads are literally in the clouds

The steep 2,480-foot climb includes 3,922 narrow steps built into Oahu's Koolau mountain range and allows hikers to feel like their heads are literally in the clouds

Between March 14 and March 23 of this year, the Honolulu Police Department arrested six hikers and issued 93 citations during an operation geared at stopping visitors from making the illegal climb, according to the Associated Press.

Despite safety concerns, however, there has been only one documented death on the stairs - singer and comedian Fritz Hasenpusch, who had a heart attack while climbing in 2012.

The removal of the stairs has been a contentious topic for decades, as laid out in a report conducted between 2017 and 2019 by the Honolulu Board of Water Supply, which owned the stairs until handing it over to city administration last year.

'With the advent of social media, instructions to illegally access Haiku Stairs are readily available, and prolific sharing of panoramic snapshots encourages people around the world to risk the climb,' the report reads. 'There is an ongoing need to stop trespassing and reduce disruptions in the adjacent residential neighborhoods.'

Despite safety concerns, however, there has been only one documented death on the stairs when a man had a heart attack while climbing in 2012

Despite safety concerns, however, there has been only one documented death on the stairs when a man had a heart attack while climbing in 2012

The U.S. Navy built the stairs in 1940 as a way of providing access to a secret military radio base used in World War II

The U.S. Navy built the stairs in 1940 as a way of providing access to a secret military radio base used in World War II

In the 1970s, the U.S. Coast Guard owned the stairs and allowed about 75 guests to visit each day before closing it in 1987

In the 1970s, the U.S. Coast Guard owned the stairs and allowed about 75 guests to visit each day before closing it in 1987

The stairs almost opened to the public again in 2001, when then-Mayor Jeremy Harris invested $875,000 to fix damaged portions of the stairs and renovate sections for safe public access. But the plan never came to fruition

The stairs almost opened to the public again in 2001, when then-Mayor Jeremy Harris invested $875,000 to fix damaged portions of the stairs and renovate sections for safe public access. But the plan never came to fruition

Mayor Rick Blangardi must approve the city budget to finalize the move to destroy the 'Stairway to Heaven'

Mayor Rick Blangardi must approve the city budget to finalize the move to destroy the 'Stairway to Heaven'

When the Board of Water Supply owned the stairs, it spent about $250,000 of ratepayer funds each year on security services to prevent trespassing. 

Maintenance costs were a burden to the agency as well and, in 2016 it spent $23,000 to remove a swing that was illegally installed on the ridgeline near the top of the stairs.

The Honolulu Police Department and Fire Department also incur costs from trespassing enforcement and rescue operations, the agency wrote in its report.

The U.S. Navy built the stairs in 1940 as a way of providing access to a radio base.

In the 1970s, the U.S. Coast Guard owned the stairs and allowed about 75 guests to visit each day before closing it in 1987.

The stairs almost opened to the public again in 2001, when then-Mayor Jeremy Harris invested $875,000 to fix damaged portions of the stairs and renovate sections for safe public access. 

But the plan never came to fruition. 

The attraction has a devout fan base that has been fighting since its closure in 1987 to clean and preserve the site. 

Donned the 'Friends of Haiku Stairs,' the group rallied against the council's decision outside the Honolulu Hale, a local municipal building, on Tuesday, according to local news station KITV.

The 'Friends of Haiku Stairs,' the group rallied against the council's decision outside the Honolulu Hale, a local municipal building, on Tuesday

The 'Friends of Haiku Stairs,' the group rallied against the council's decision outside the Honolulu Hale, a local municipal building, on Tuesday

The group wants the site to be open to the public again under 'managed access'

The group wants the site to be open to the public again under 'managed access'

The organization's president, Vernon Ansdell, told the station, 'To lose the stairs would be a catastrophe. This is a priceless Windward treasure. And they must not be destroyed. This would be a huge loss to Oahu, the State of Oahu, and in particular to residents on the Windward side.'

Andsell recently wrote an op-ed in the Honolulu Civil Beat arguing for 'managed access' to the stairs similar to the plan of former Mayor Harris. He wrote that the council's decision 'defies logic' and explains a detailed plan outlining how the stairs could function as a tourist attraction again.

It reads, 'the Haiku Stairs can be reopened and operated at zero cost to Hawaii taxpayers and would leave the city and state governments $2.14 million better off than the proposal to remove them. Visitors would be charged to climb the stairs, and this would cover the costs of security, insurance, maintenance, staffing and educational programs.'

Advertisement

Honolulu council to destroy Hawaii's 'Stairway to Heaven' over concerns that it's too dangerous

The comments below have not been moderated.

The views expressed in the contents above are those of our users and do not necessarily reflect the views of MailOnline.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.