Veterans headed to Kilauea Military Camp inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park may be surprised to find they have to pay a park entrance fee.
In the past, veterans who didn’t have a park pass would be allowed to enter for free if they were going to KMC, a military recreation facility on the rim of the Kilauea caldera, and showed a retired military identification card.
Park spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane said those waivers have been discontinued because they are not allowed by law if the purpose of entering is for recreation.
“Hawaii Volcanoes National Park values and respects the sacrifices and service our military retirees and veterans have made for our country, and we have many veterans on our staff, and who volunteer with us,” she said in an email. “We regret that we will not be able to provide fee waivers, and we apologize for the inconvenience this may cause some KMC patrons.”
Ferracane said active-duty personnel can enter the park with a free Military Pass but those passes don’t apply to retired service members. The fee waivers for them ended last January.
The park was closed from May through September due to damage from earthquakes and caldera collapses associated with the recent lower East Rift Zone eruption, and the change is becoming news to some.
Tim Wright, a Navy and Hawaii Air National Guard veteran, said he became aware of the change Dec. 1 when he tried to enter the park to fill up gas at KMC, which is slightly cheaper than other stations in the area, on his way back to Hilo from Ka‘u.
He said he showed his retired military ID card but was told he would have to pay the $25 entry fee.
“I don’t mind paying to go to the park,” Wright said. “I don’t think we should pay to go to KMC.”
Ferracane said less than 20 retired military personnel or veterans used a military ID to gain entry to KMC per week before the change was made.
KMC also hosts the only bowling alley in East Hawaii.
Ferracane said school teams can receive educational waivers if they are participating in a state Department of Education activity.
“Otherwise, a bowling team is subject to entrance fees like everyone else, and again, most regular park/KMC users already have one of the passes previously mentioned,” she said in the email.
Neal Herbert, treasurer of the Big Island Retired Military Association, said he was informed of the policy change recently as the group planned its Christmas party at KMC, which was held Dec 1.
“Prior to this year, people like us retired military could get fee waivers,” he said. “A lot of us have senior passes. Some of us don’t.”
Herbert said Friday he wasn’t aware of people declining to attend if they had to pay the park entry fee.
He said the group wasn’t consulted about the policy change, but he noted it’s not a national organization.
KMC, which opened the same year as the park in 1916, occupies about 50 acres.
Ferracane said the special use permit for KMC ends in 2021. She said the National Park Service and U.S. Army are “working collaboratively to address a new use agreement. NPS is also developing a site plan for future use and enjoyment of the area that will include the U.S. Army.”
The park will hold five free days in 2019: Jan. 21 (Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday), April 20 (first day of National Park week), Aug. 25 (NPS’ birthday), Sept. 28 (National Public Lands Day) and Nov. 11 (Veterans Day).
Email Tom Callis at email@example.com.