Social media posts prompt uptick in unlawful Hawaii hikes

HONOLULU - Social media posts have increased traffic on unsanctioned hiking paths across the state, according to a Hawaii trail specialist.

Aaron Lowe, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources' trails and access specialist, said there has been a dramatic increase in the use of the state trails, as well as people going to places that are obviously dangerous, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday.

"Anyone's basically able to post any type of information about a trail that they hiked on regardless of jurisdiction trespass, hazard or maintenance," Lowe said. "Other people have access to that information and see it's a beautiful place, are intrigued and want to go regardless of whether it could have a risk and be extremely dangerous."

On Instagram, a search for #haikustairs yields more than 34,000 posts, with new ones as recent as March 5. The shuttered staircase that scales high up the Koolau Mountains — requiring trespassing — has become one of the popular unsanctioned hikes. Another spot is Makapuu Tom Tom, a popular spot to take selfies.

A typical example occurred Sunday, when Honolulu Fire Department rescue crews extracted two hikers, a male and a female, who were stuck in a steep clearing left of the Haiku Stairs trail.

The department is also responding to an uptick in calls for help from injured and wayward hikers compared with 15 years ago, veteran rescue Capt. Peter Akiona said. During 2017, the department responded to 367 hike-related calls.

"The fact of the matter is there's just more people on the trails of Oahu," Akiona said.

A state bill seeking more funding for the Na Ala Hele trails said search and rescue operations cost about $1,500 an hour.


Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser,

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