Coalition objects to city plans to remove platform at summit of Koko Crater Stairs

Nina Wu, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser
·4 min read

Feb. 28—It's considered the pinnacle after climbing up the 1, 048 steps at Koko Crater Stairs and reaching the summit, hikers said.

The grated, metal platform provides a 360-degree view and is considered by many the reward for the long climb. Now the platform—originally constructed by the U.S. military as a radar station—is slated for removal by the city as part of a.

City officials had after receiving pushback from the community—in particular, from the, the nonprofit partner currently making temporary repairs to the stairs.

A spokesman for the Department of Parks and Recreation confirmed the contract was moving forward, as planned, but offered no start date or other details.

Members of the Kokonut Koalition feel they have been blindsided by the move, which they were never informed of even as they continued to raise funds and repair steps, in good faith, and recruit volunteers in the effort.

The city earlier this year announced the as part of a private ­-public partnership with the coalition.

"I cannot believe it, " said Lena Haapala, coalition spokeswoman. "We had no clue what they were planning and they didn't give us any kind of anything. If they were going to do it all along they should've talked to us about it. We should've been in that conversation. We were totally shocked."

Reaching the summit after climbing up the steps at Koko Head Regional Park would not be the same without the platform, she said. It is where hikers enjoy the view, the sunrise and sunset, and take photos to document their accomplishment.

Haapala said the group is prepared to fight the plans, and that she herself would sit up there in order to stop the removal of the platform, under the threat of arrest.

, said his understanding is that former Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed off on the project at the request of Mark Yonamine, then-director of the Department of Design and Construction, in December before the end of their terms. His understanding is that the project is slated to begin in a few weeks.

"It's a slap in the face, " he said. "We all live here, and hundreds of thousands of people climb up and take pictures. We deserve some input on whether this needs to happen, " he said.

Caldwell's administration in 2019 earmarked $1 million for the immediate and long-term repair of the stairs, and the Honolulu City Council subsequently approved a.

In the end, the coalition received about $74, 000 to make temporary repairs and is raising an additional $59, 000 in order to purchase materials, according to Nixon.

The coalition has invested significant time, money, sweat equity and heart into the stairs, he said, and has been "working tirelessly " to rehabilitate Koko Crater Stairs after decades of neglect.

In just two months, he said, the group, with help from hundreds of community volunteers, repaired over a third of the steps. It also paid for its own engineer and obtained all the necessary permits to conduct the temporary repairs.

The original city project last summer also called for the removal of debris from tunnels and sealing off shafts and vents to improve safety at the summit. The coalition is fine with those moves, Nixon said, but not the removal of the platform.

Nixon acknowledged the platform needs to be repaired but said it has been in its current condition—with some collapse and rusting—for many years. There have been no incidents at the platform, he said, and no significant deterioration.

The coalition is urging Mayor Rick Blangiardi and the city to postpone removing the platform until community input is solicited and alternatives are considered.

The city should work with the coalition and other stakeholders to make sure the funding is actually used to support repairs to the stairs rather than demolition work, Nixon said.

"We are capable and willing to engage with engineering expertise to demonstrate that there are other solutions that preserve the platform and address safety concerns, " he said.

The tramway and radar station were built by the military in 1942, then deactivated in 1966 and returned to the city. Since then, the railway ties leading to the summit have become a popular draw for residents and visitors alike.