Residents flock to MacKenzie to relax, see new beach

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald New lava is seen reaching out into the ocean past older cliffs Saturday at Mackenzie State Recreation Area in lower Puna.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Stephanie Olson-Moore (center) smiles as she celebrates her birthday with her daughter Punua Gomes, 7, her father, Ed Olson-Moore and Kysen Jose Saturday at MacKenzie State Recreation Area in lower Puna. "It is a really great birthday present," Olson-Moore said of the park reopening.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Riki Nakano-Domen of Puna looks out at the ocean with his children, from left, Chaysten, 10, Taytum, 4, and Raiden, 8, Saturday at MacKenzie State Recreation Area in lower Puna.

MacKenzie State Recreation Area is located at the end of the road, where Highway 137 meets a barricade and not far from where lava from the lower Puna eruption first entered the ocean.

But it wasn’t the final destination for some gathering at the park Saturday, the first day of it being open in several months.

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Some were hiking to the closest spot where lava flowed into the sea, which hosts a small black sand beach.

Others were going farther, over to Isaac Hale Beach Park, where a large black sand beach now hugs Pohoiki, a popular gathering spot that has been off limits for months due to the eruption.

Isaac Hale remains closed but the county is planning to open it after the road is cleared of lava rock and facilities are cleaned.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources said in a press release that while Malama Ki Forest Reserve also is now open, people can be fined for crossing recent lava flows.

“A safety buffer of 50 meters from recent lava flows in the forest reserve will be maintained until further notice,” DLNR said.

At least one of the fingers of lava that entered the ocean appears to be within the reserve boundaries.

Not everyone was deterred, and whether officially open or not, Puna was ready to reclaim Pohoiki.

“I just want to see Pohoiki right now,” said one hiker who planned to make the trip, which they said takes 45 minutes.

Jimmy Early and Kelli Drosselmeyer said they were going to try and go as far as they could.

“All in all we are happy even to come down and see the Red Road is still nice,” said Early, referring to Highway 137.

“We kind of thought it was destroyed, but it’s not.”

The Kilauea eruption has been relatively quiet for the past month, with no flows leaving fissure 8 in Leilani Estates.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said Saturday that small amounts of incandescence were visible within the fissure overnight.

Meanwhile, an ash cloud at Pu‘u ‘O‘o was seen Saturday morning.

Janet Babb, HVO spokeswoman, said that’s a result of rockfalls within the steep cone as it continues to show slight deflation.

She said HVO detected slight inflation elsewhere on the middle rift zone, which shows that magma is moving downrift.

But Babb noted that doesn’t mean a return of surface flows at fissure 8 or somewhere else is imminent.

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“It’s not a big signal; it’s a very minor thing,” she said.

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

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