As a kid growing up my friends and I would play soldier in the pillboxes of Lanikai
hillside or hide and seek in the haole koa. As a teenager I spent many a hot
summer day cooling off at Maunawili Falls. While the people that lived around
access points weren’t wild about the traffic, they tolerated it if you were
respectful; parked appropriately, cleaned up after yourself and were quiet as you
traversed the neighborhoods. Of course that was the 70’s and the 80’s. Flash
forward 40 years and the advent of the internet and social media have made
those local secrets common knowledge. As a result there has been an explosion
of people traversing residential communities to access these amazing places. This
is our new reality.
The people of these communities have borne the brunt of this new reality.
Traffic, parking, noise, trash and even human waste are the price these
neighborhoods bear. There are also environmental consequences of this
increased traffic. Trails get overwhelmed leading to erosion and run-off. Finally
there is a financial cost to all of us as taxpayers as HFD estimates rescue costs at
$1,500 per hour. While the environmental and financial costs are a concern, the
larger concern is looking out for our community members that are unfairly
impacted. Simply put our old ways can not meet the demand of our new reality.
This issue has come to a head with one of these locations, Haiku Stairs or Stairway
to Heaven, as the Board of Water Supply has deeded the iconic trail to the City
and County of Honolulu. How do we deal with this location and all the others like
it? While there is no one size fits all solution I believe we have a successful model
in Hanauma Bay. Decades ago Hanauma was also being over-run and decimated
by the volume of people visiting. A plan was put in place to restore the bay by
reducing the number of visitors, establishing an education program and
instituting supportive restrictions. While the carrying capacity of the stairs will
not support the same size and type of operation, this concept should be scalable.
I don’t know if this will end up being the solution for the Haiku stairs, but I do
know this. If elected to the City Council I will work to maintain access to our
special places, but I will not continue to do so if we can’t solve the burden our
fellow community members face.