Going on illegal hikes results in damaged property, fines, and mortality in rare cases, according to law enforcement and state representatives.
According to Officer Hibbert of the Honolulu Police Department, “There are now officers paid to help keep these areas secure and they have the power to arrest. If someone goes and gets caught, the consequences are up to the discretion of the police officer.
“Either someone will get a citation to appear in court with a fine or arrested if the person has done the hike illegally before.
When hikers go on illegal trails and get stuck or face any other trouble that requires emergency assistance, Deborah Ward, the information specialist for the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), said the resources that could be used for other emergencies are used to help hikers. “If someone gets in trouble, who are they going to call? They’re going to call the Fire Department. That will take them away from other life threatening emergencies.”
Hibbert said trespassing on the Haiku Stairs, better known as Stairway to Heaven, is being taken more seriously now more than ever.
According to KHON2, the fine for hiking Stairway to Heaven is set at $1,000, and paid officers patrol the area at random and when called upon by community members to instigate the fine.
Charles Parker, the communication specialist for the city prosecutor’s office, said, “There is currently no legal access to the stairs, so many hikers go through residents’ yards and fences. Sometimes things are broken or words are exchanged and that’s where even more trouble occurs on top of trespassing onto the trail itself.”
A self-described avid hiker, Parker said he loves all the beautiful scenic views in Hawaii, but hiking Stairway is not worth the consequences.
According to David Chatsuthiphan of UnrealHawaii.com, the hike “is a steel staircase made up of 4,000 steps that ascends a ridge up from the Valley of Haiku. The steps were built so the military could access a radio station antennae 2,000 feet up on the mountain during World War II.”
Business Insider states the famous hike “was a popular hiking trail in the 1980s, operated by the Coast Guard, until 1987 when it was deemed too dangerous for the public.” The Board of Water Supply now manages the trail.
As for Sacred Falls, another well-known hike on Oahu, Ward said the department is taking a hard line with citations and keeping people out of the trail.
The DLNR website states, “Entry into Sacred Falls State Park, and any other closed state park, is punishable in court with fines of a minimum $100 for a first offense; $200 for a second offense; and $500 for a third or subsequent offense.
“Moreover, The Board of Land and Natural Resources may also pursue civil administrative penalties of up to $2,500 for a first violation; $5,000 for a second violation; and $10,000 for a third or subsequent violation.”
The website states the reason Sacred Falls State Park is closed is because of a past tragedy. “A massive rockslide on May 9, 1999 killed eight and injured around 50 people. Following the incident, DLNR closed the park, locked the entrance, and posted and maintained numerous signs indicating the park’s closure and hazardous conditions.”
The Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement (DOCARE) manages and enforces trespassing cases. The DNLR blog post quotes DOCARE Enforcement Chief Randy Awo: “DOCARE takes prohibited entry violations seriously and will continue to monitor Sacred Falls State Park, issue citations, and protect public health and safety when necessary.”
The DLNR encourages people to enjoy other state parks and trails that are open and accessible to the public, such as the trails managed by the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife. These safe, legal trails can be found at HawaiiTrails.org.