Hawaii’s rickety Haiku Stairs on Oahu island have been closed to the public for over 30 years for safety reasons.
But that hasn’t stopped thousands of tourists from climbing the 3,922 steel stairs that stretch precariously up Ko'olau mountain range each year. The sky-high staircase, damaged by landslides and weakened over years of neglect, boast some of the best views of the island, earning it the nickname “Stairway to Heaven.”
In February, after a damaging storm left five hikers stranded and permanently twisted sections of the metal railing, Honolulu's Board of Water Supply—a state run agency that oversees the trail’s maintenance announced that the trail would be either handed over to another agency or be torn down completely.
But now, thanks to a group of local residents and volunteers who have banded together under a nonprofit organization Friends of Haiku Stairs, there is a plan for the stairs to be repaired and reopened to the public.
In October, Friends of Haiku Stairs laid out a plan to collect revenue from tourists and local hikers, which would fund reconstruction and subsidize maintenance costs, reports Pacific Business News. They're proposing a plan that includes a $100 fee for out-of-state visitors, and a $5 to $20 fee for Hawaiian residents. While $100 may seem as the steep as the stairs,current fines for trespassing on the Haiku Stairs can be up to $600, with up to six months in prison.
“If people realize what they’re paying for is going towards that particular venture, they’re very willing to pay that sort of money to experience something like this,” said Friends of Haiku Stairs’Vernon Ansdell. He said the famous Hawaiian trail has been compared to major world attractions like Macchu Pichu.
“If you could see the emails we get, people from around the world and Oahu are truly begging us to come and hike the stairs.”
The Haiku Stairs, also known as the Haiku Ladder, were built during World War II. At its highest point, the stairs reach an altitude of 2,800 feet. The stairs were officially closed in the 1980s, but local residents estimate that up to 2,000 people attempt to climb the stairs illegally each year.
Friends of Haiku Stairs estimate that if reopened, the attraction could generate up to $1.7 million annually if 100 climbers went through per day.