Shutdown Closes Isle’s Biggest Attraction, Hawai`i Volcanoes
by Dave Smith
Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, the Big Island’s biggest tourist destination and likely its most prominent casualty of the government shutdown, was in the process this morning of closing down most of its operations.
All of its visitor facilities including the Kilauea Visitor Center, the newly renovated Volcano House Hotel, campgrounds and roads are being closed, said park spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane.
The only exceptions are Highway 11, which runs through the park, and the entrance gate for those needing to access their mail at the post office located inside the park near the Kilauea Visitors Center. Access for that will be allowed between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., Ferracane said.
Guests in overnight campgrounds and lodges, including the hotel and the Namakanipao campground, are being given until 6 p.m. Thursday to leave.
She said only two backcountry campers were staying at Halape and they were scheduled to leave Monday anyway.
All park programs and special events have been cancelled.
That includes tonight’s scheduled talks on earthquakes at the visitor center and at the University of Hawaii at Hilo in preparation for the global Oct. 17 Great ShakeOut. Both of those presentations have been postponed until further notice, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory staff said.
All that is the result of the furloughing of 127 park employees. Another 90 employees of the hotel and other concessions are also affected by the shutdown, Ferracane said.
Thirteen park employees deemed “essential” will remain on duty to provide security and emergency services. Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando is not among them.
According to Ferracane, the park averages 4,500 visitors daily through its front gates. As a result, during the shutdown the park will lose an estimated $12,800 in entrance fees each day, plus other fees.
She said as of mid-morning, rangers at the gate had turned back more than 100 cars.
“Those people are going to have to find something else to do today,” Ferracane said.
A sustained shutdown could have a significant impact on surrounding communities as well. Studies done for the National Park Service show that visitors to the park spend approximately $265,000 a day in its “gateway” communities.
Nationwide, the National Park Service will be turning away more than 715,000 visitors per day at a cost of roughly $450,000 in lost revenue, she said. The shutdown has furloughed more than 20,000 NPS employees.
It even affects the National Park Website, which will be down for the duration because no one will be available to maintain it.
NPS.gov has more than 750,000 pages and 91 million unique visitors annually.
Visit here for more information on the government shutdown.