The Maunakea Visitor Information Station was closed Sunday and will be closed on Sundays for the foreseeable future as skyrocketing visitor rates overwhelm the facility.
With Hawaii Volcanoes National Park closed, other tourist destinations on the island have taken on a significant increase in visitors.
“When you cross the national park off the list, you have more people trying to go to fewer places,” said Dan Meisenzahl, communications director for the University of Hawaii, which operates the station.
Between the park’s closure and the typical increase of visitors during the summer, the center requires additional manpower to operate each day. It will be closed Sundays for a “day of recovery,” Meisenzahl said.
Although Meisenzahl could not provide specific numbers of the increase of visitors at the station, he said the station now requires staff members to man the parking lot at all times to cope with car traffic.
Meisenzahl said the situation will be continually reassessed to determine whether the station can return to its ordinary operating hours.
“Maybe it will slow down as usual by the end of summer,” he said.
The national park announced last week its intention to partially reopen by Sept. 22, which also might alleviate some of the burden on the Maunakea visitor station. Parks spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane said the park remains on track for that deadline despite sustaining mild damage from Hurricane Lane last week.
“Mostly the weather just exacerbated some existing damage,” Ferracane said. “Washing out soil and the like.”
“We’re looking good so far,” she added about the Sept. 22 deadline.
Until further notice, the Maunakea Visitor Information Station is open 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Restrooms and the parking lot will remain open Sundays, as will Maunakea Access Road and the summit area.
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