Honolulu Spending $2.5M to Erase Instagram-Famous Stairs

Oahu's Haiku Stairs, considered a liability, to be dismantled over the next 6 months
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 15, 2021 12:43 PM CDT
Updated Apr 17, 2024 11:10 AM CDT
Hawaii's 'Stairway to Heaven' to Soon Be Demolished
The Haiku Stairs are shown in this photo.   (Getty Images)
UPDATE Apr 17, 2024 11:10 AM CDT

Say goodbye to Oahu's Haiku Stairs. The Instagram-famous staircase built by the US Navy during World War II to access a radio transmitting station atop a mountain in Kaneohe will be dismantled beginning at the end of this month in response to what Honolulu City Council member Esther Kia'aina tells CNN is "rampant illegal trespassing." Thrill-seekers have long ignored dangers and threats of fines to climb the 3,922 off-limit steps in search of an epic view, resulting in hundreds of rescues. The council voted to remove the stairs in 2021 at a cost of $1 million. The work, now estimated to cost $2.5 million, will take at least six months, per CNN. However, a group says it's continuing to fight to save the stairs by filing an appeal to its dismissed lawsuit, per Backpacker Magazine.

Sep 15, 2021 12:43 PM CDT

Hawaii's "Stairway to Heaven" will soon be no more. The 3,922-step Haiku Stairs on Oahu's Ko'olau mountain range were built by the US Navy in the 1940s to give access to a secret radio station; the public was barred from using the stairs in 1987. But that—and an associated fine of up to $1,000—hasn't stopped an estimated 4,000 people from trying to climb them each year anyway. The Honolulu City Council last Wednesday unanimously voted in favor of a resolution to remove them, with the Hill quoting councilmember Esther Kiaaina as saying the illegal trespassing caused by the stairs poses "a significant liability and expense for the city, and impacts the quality of life for nearby residents."

Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi on Tuesday approved the move. "We recognize the interest the stairs have to certain community groups," said Blangiardi, reports Hawaii News Now. But "fundamentally, it is inappropriate to have a high-use tourist attraction entering through this residential neighborhood, which lacks in the capacity to provide appropriate facilities or parking." He added, per Honolulu Civil Beat, "In addition, there is no unrestricted access to the stairs, and the primary landowner at the base made it clear it is not interested in providing access."

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Many locals weren't pleased either, with one nearby resident sharing this with the City Council: "Nobody can possibly understand the angst and stress that we go through every day. We've caught people climbing our fences, harassing our pets, creeping outside of our children's bedroom windows. I personally have caught multiple instances of these egregious acts on video." The city has a $1 million budget for disassembling the stairs; no date has yet been set for their removal. (More Hawaii stories.)

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