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Who's maintaining the Koko Crater Railway Trail?

By Justin Fujioka
Published On: May 13 2013 07:00:00 PM HST

It wasn't meant to be a trail, yet hundreds hike a decades-old railway up Koko Crater each day. As its popularity grows, more and more people are trampling the tram tracks.

HONOLULU -

It wasn't meant to be a trail, yet hundreds hike a decades-old railway up Koko Crater each day.

As its popularity grows, more and more people are trampling the tram tracks.

For some, it can be a strenuous hike.

"It's a good challenge," said David Hood. "Some of the people are actually running up and down it and they do it like, couple of times a day. That's crazy."

For others, it's a 1,048-step workout.

"It's fast," Lauren Cox said. "It takes maybe 20 minutes up, ten minutes down and it's really high intensity."

Intensity that has taken its toll on the Koko Crater Railway Trail. The tracks were built during World War II to transport materials to military bunkers at the summit.

So it's no surprise, there are some loose ends along the 70-year-old wooden tracks.

"There are places where some of it had rotted," Hood said.

Click here to see more photos of the Koko Crater trail.

"I feel like it needs to be maintained on a regular basis by a professional organization," Cox said.

Both the Sierra Club and the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club have told us that they do not maintain the city-owned land and do not know of any organized groups that do.

"The city installed a warning sign there a few years ago to let people know about the dangers," said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell's communications director Jesse Broder Van Dyke. "It's completely unimproved. The city doesn't maintain trails in general."

"There's some volunteers that I believe come up there and bring their own cement blocks up there," Cox said. "but they're kind of unstable at times."

Other regulars said volunteers have even replaced some of the broken wooden ties.

"I don't know that it has to be improved," Hood said. "I think it's part of the appeal is that it's been there for what, 50, 60, 70 years and you know, it's still there."

Broder Van Dyke said, "We don't recommend it because there are safer trails that are maintained regularly, such as nearby Makapuu Lighthouse Trail."

Without notice, the city closed the climb five years ago, saying the tracks are dangerous and that a stray bullet from the nearby Koko Head Shooting Complex could pose a potential risk to hikers. After a public uproar, it reopened the trail just hours later.

It's a fight the city has succumbed to recently, even stepping out of its boundaries when it removed a steel wire cable two years ago for safety reasons. Crews shut down the hike for a week for something many would call maintenance.

"It is a very popular trail," Broder Van Dyke said. "So we want to try to work with the community and keep access to as many of our beautiful spots as we can."

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