Vendors face relocation: County responding to safety concerns near lava viewing area in Kalapana

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald A group of birds eat some birdseed Thursday by vendors near Hawaii County’s designated lava viewing area at the end of Highway 130 in Kalapana.

Hawaii County is clamping down on vendors near its designated lava viewing area at the end of Highway 130 in Kalapana.

The vendors, which range from bike rentals to hot dog sellers, set up shop along the side of the road shortly after the Kamokuna lava ocean entry began in July 2016, catering to the hundreds of people who pass through there each day.

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But Talmadge Magno, county Civil Defense administrator, said vending is not allowed on road setbacks and the county is giving them until July 1 to leave.

Magno told County Council members during a budget meeting Thursday that the enforcement is in response to safety concerns about customers crowding the road. He said the county has received complaints from residents who live past the viewing area.

The county will host a meeting with vendors about the decision at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Pahoa Community Center.

“We’ll give them the information they need to run a viable, legal business,” Magno told council members.

Mayor Harry Kim said he has been reviewing the issue for the past several months. A “working group” looked at different options for the vendors, he said.

“It was brought to my attention by residents some time ago,” Kim said.

Magno said the county will allow them to operate on private property with the proper permits. Allowing them to operate on nearby state land was considered, but the approval process for that option was considered too cumbersome, he said.

About a dozen vendors are present on any given day, Magno estimated.

Kim said he is aware of at least one vendor that is securing access to private property.

The move comes as the lava flow from Kilauea’s Pu‘u ‘O‘o cone becomes less of an attraction since it currently is not entering the ocean. As of Thursday, the flow remained in the Kahaualeʻa Natural Area Reserve, which is closed to the public. It can’t be seen from the viewing area.

The county is paying for security at the parking area from 3-10 p.m. each day.

Magno told the Tribune-Herald that between 500 and 700 visitors are counted during those hours, down from the peak of more than 1,000 when the flow was active closer to the ocean.

He said the county also is planning to relocate the public parking area about 1 mile down the road beyond the homes, which were built on land covered by lava flows in the late 1980s or early 1990s.

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Kim said that was the public parking/lava viewing area during his previous administration. He said the county charged for parking then, and the county is assessing whether fees for access should be charged to help cover costs.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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