OHE February 20, 1998 (b)

Date: Fri, 20 Feb 1998 08:57:30 -1000
From: Patrick Rorie (prorie@hekili.k12.hi.us>
Subject: Haiku Valley Cultural Preserve Community Meeting

Attended a meeting last night regarding the future use of Haiku Valley including the "Stairway to Heaven". Also in attendance from OHE-L were Gene Robinson and Mahealani Cypher.

There were approx. 20 people gathered at Windward Community College Eckhert Hall room 102. Noteables not present were Councilmember Steve Holmes and John Flanagan due to other committments (the Kaneohe Neighborhood board meeting was also taking place that night).

Once the meeting got under way the participants broke up into various committees which included fundraising, Hawaiian/cultural programs, education, museum development, and recreational activities. Gene and I joined the recreational activities committee because it dealt with the Haiku Staircase. Mahealani joined us a short time later and three other women (Nellie ?, Linda ?, and Teresa ?) rounded out the group.

A general discussion took place with Linda expressing her concern about the cost of upkeep and liability of the stairs. Gene suggested that the staircase remain "as is" with some work done where obviously needed. A "hike at your own risk" sign should then be posted near the trailhead. I told the committee that a setup similar to the Sierra club might reduce the possibility of injury/death. Small groups could go up lead by a hike leader with perhaps someone in the middle and a sweeper in the back.

The main focus was on a document which Mahea submitted. The INTERIM PLAN FOR COMMUNITY ACCESS TO HAIKU VALLEY which will be sent to representatives of the Coast Guard/City and County of Honolulu for review next week touched on the need for 1) vegetation clearing and forest restoration, 2) community education/recreation. It did not contain much about hiking and hiking trails so Mahealani encouraged Gene and I to come up with some suggestions. She also urged us to give testimony at the City Planning Commission Hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 25 at 1:30 p.m. at the City Hall Annex.

At approx. 7:30 p.m. the committee meetings ended and Mahea went to the front of the room to solicit committee reports and lead a general discussion. A native Hawaiian gentleman voiced his concern about surveying the valley without first marking indigenous plants and religious/historic sites. A woman who works for an environmental company also raised concerns about environmental issues including the removal of hazardous materials the military had left behind. Mahealani suggested that a map of the area be acquired and used as a blueprint to coordinate all of the mentioned activities (marking of historic sites, possible or existing trail routes, hazardous material areas, etc.).

The meeting adjourned before 8 p.m. with the next one scheduled for Monday, March 16 at 6:30 p.m.

Notes: If you would like a copy of the INTERIM PLAN please contact Mahealani. Any suggested additions, modifications or deletions to the document need to be made by Monday, February 23. Please give testimony at the hearing on Wednesday encouraging the use of Haiku Valley as a nature preserve.

== Patrick

Reply from: Gene Robinson (gene@lava.net>

Great summary of the meeting, Patrick. Hopefully, other OHE-L folks will be able to attend the Wednesday 2/25 City Planning Commission Hearing at 1:30 p.m. to show support for the idea of a "Haiku Valley Nature & Cultural Preserve" once the City acquires the property. I doubt that the issue of the stairs will be a significant part of the discussion, right, Mahealani? But the fate of the valley, preserving its natural resources and cultural and historic sites, will be the main topic.

I have been assured that NO development is planned by the City, that conversion to park land is a sure thing, but I'm still nervous. The Planning Commission just approved a big development in Waiawa because, according to chairman Mufi Hannemann, "They didn't want to send out an anti-business message to Gentry in these tough economic times." (2/98 Leeward Current) So Waiawa (the area between Mililani Mauka and Pacific Palisades) will soon be covered with "...2,675 housing units, a 90-acre commercial and employment center, TWO GOLF COURSES [emphasis mine], an elementary school and public parks."

Nothing has been decided regarding the fate of the stairs. Will the Coast Guard do some major repairs before turning them over? Will the City do the repairs once the valley has been handed over?

Bigger question: who will maintain the stairs, regulate access, and assume liability for all the yahoos who will go climbing up the stairs and possibly falling off? Does it seem likely that the city will want to do this? Will citizens want their tax dollars spent maintaining the stairs?

I think that the liability issue will be the BIG headache. Once the stairs are "open," even if you post warning signs, there will be people going up, possibly drinking, maybe in bad weather, and they will get hurt. If you put a guard booth at the base of the stairs to check people out and sign them in, like accessing Olomana, who'll pay for it? Charge hikers for going up? I don't think so.

Here's one suggestion: think of the stairs as being a natural feature, like the Koolau summit, or one of Ohulehule's ridges. People hike these natural features at their own risk. Nobody is liable for the hikers but themselves. If there are sections of trail that get thin or washed out, volunteers from HTMC, Sierra Club, and private citizens fix them up by putting in ropes or cables. Can't the same be done for the stairs?

If an organization is foolish enough to assume responsibility for "maintaining" the stairs, and assuring the safety of those who use them, that organization will be a sitting duck for personal injury attorneys. If NO organization is responsible, but the stairs are maintained by volunteer efforts, then nobody gets sued when "kukae happens." Hopefully, people will be careful. Groups that go up the stairs could do as Patrick has suggested.

Any comments?

Reply from: Mahealani Cypher (Malamapono@aol.com)

You're right, Gene...

Actually, a coupla years ago, the State Legislature passed into law a special protection for natural areas -- mountains -- where hikers go. The law exempts landowners from liability from injuries suffered by hikers who are on their property. This particularly helps with government-owned property and big landowners like Bishop Estate. Too bad, even with this protection, Bishop Estate tends to be overly restrictive about access to trails through their lands. I think it's more a *control* thing. Maybe they don't like "outsiders" on their property? Perhaps this is fear of pakalolo growers and the like...or frivolous lawsuits.

All in all, the City (via Steve Holmes) has already made it clear the Stairs is their main interest in Haiku Valley, although turning it into a preserve (on city maps) gives it additional protection. The Admiral's office (Coast Guard) contacted Steve recently and said they will keep their commitment to repair the stairs and turn it over to the City. But I'm not sure if they have set any timetable. Hopefully they will send someone to testify at the P.C. hearing.

-- Mahealani

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