Ownership of a stairway that snakes along a mountainside in Hawaii has been transferred to the city of Honolulu in hopes of transforming the currently off-limits hike into a public attraction.
The Board of Water Supply transferred the staircase known as the Stairway to Heaven or Haiku Stairs to the city on Wednesday, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported. They also transferred 200 acres (80 hectares) of land that surrounds the structure.
The staircase was built in the 1950s when the Navy replaced a World War II ladder that was used to access mountaintop radio equipment.
The Coast Guard allowed monitored public use of the stairs beginning in 1975 but access was prohibited in 1987 because of vandalism.
A debate about access, neighborhood disruptions and safety concerns has been ongoing since and officials considered tearing down the structure that has more than 3,000 metal steps.
For decades people have trespassed and ducked past guards to access the hike and its stunning scenery.
“Haiku Stairs is world famous as one of the most breathtaking hikes in the world. I’m very pleased that we will be able to save this treasured site from being torn down,” Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said in a statement.
The city is now responsible for maintaining security until an outside operator is chosen to run the staircase. The city and police department will be able to provide oversight that will satisfy the concerns neighbors have about trespassers, Caldwell said.
The Board of Water Supply said the stairs were a liability that did not align with the agency's mission.