Volcano House and KMC work to reopen

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald file photo
    A view of the back of the Volcano House hotel at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Two attractions in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are expected to be reopened to the public the same day the national park returns to service later this month.

The Volcano House hotel and Kilauea Military Camp, both located within the grounds of the national park, are planned to reopen on Sept. 22, nearly four months since their closure due to Kilauea volcano’s increased seismic activity.

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However, in the same way that the park’s reopening will be limited to certain areas, certain amenities at the attractions will be unavailable.

“There’s no potable water here,” said Volcano House general manager Orin McCann.

Because the hotel uses the same water system as the national park, earthquake damage has cut off drinkable water throughout the park, meaning the hotel will not accept guests nor will its kitchen be open.

Despite this, McCann said parts of the hotel — the meditation room, its gift shop, its observation area — will remain open to park visitors, who McCann said will likely be escorted in groups throughout the park by park rangers.

McCann said the hotel also will likely include a “grab and go” dining option offering bottled beverages and food brought from outside the park.

The Kilauea Military Camp, on the other hand, uses a different water system than Volcano House, and will therefore have full water services for all guests.

KMC deputy director Bruce Taylor said all facilities at KMC will be open on Sept. 22, although because of the partial closure of the park, some aspects of the camp — such as certain menu items or services — will not be available.

Taylor said the camp had not sustained significant damage from the frequent earthquakes triggered by Kilauea. Most damage, he said, was largely limited to items falling off of shelves, although he added that all food in the camp’s cafeteria had to be replaced at considerable cost.

“It’s taken a bit of work to reopen after being closed for nearly four months,” Taylor said. “To polish all the brass, so to speak.”

McCann said that final damage assessments for Volcano House will be conducted today. In recent weeks, Volcano House has conducted exterior surveys and consulted geomorphologists to determine that the land is safe to use.

Both McCann and Taylor were proud to report that Volcano House and KMC will bring back nearly all staff from before the park’s closure.

“Of course, some folks elected not to return,” Taylor said. “Maybe they decided they’d rather not continue to work on an active volcano.”

McCann said Volcano House laid off 105 out of 115 workers during the hotel’s closure but added that he has kept consistent contact with employees through conference calls held twice a week and will focus on rehiring former employees. About 70 employees have confirmed they will return to work, with an additional dozen or so strongly considering it.

While McCann said restoring the hotel to full service may depend on the park’s repairs, he said that the hotel is prepared to bring back the full staff prior to the reopening.

“Our biggest concern right now is getting our workers back as soon as possible,” McCann said.

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“Our employees are happy to be coming back,” Taylor said. “Our incoming guests are happy we’re reopening, a lot of people are excited we’re back. And so am I.”

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com