National park seeks input on four proposed designs

  • Jessica Ferracane

  • Tribune-Herald file photo Ranger Josie Acasio talks with guests Sept. 22, 2018, at Kilauea Visitor Center in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park after the park was reopened following the eruption of Kilauea volcano.

  • Tribune-Herald file photo Visitors of the Jaggar Museum at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Sept. 22, 2015, look at the Herb Kawainui Kane mural that depicts Hawaiian deities. The mural is titled “A Pantheon of Volcano Spirits.”

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the U.S. Geological Survey are seeking community feedback on a series of proposed recovery projects within the park.

Starting Friday, the National Park Service will be soliciting public feedback on four proposed park designs that would, among other things, reconfigure the area around the Kilauea Visitor Center and Uekahuna Bluff, where the now-closed Jaggar Museum stands.

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“We’re trying to solve several different problems at once,” said park spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane, explaining the redesigns seek to determine the future of Jaggar Museum while addressing a consistent lack of parking at the visitor center and the lack of a field office for the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

Based on the proposed plans posted to the National Park Service website, the park proposes Jaggar Museum and the nearby Okamura Building — the former HVO office — be demolished because the area was too compromised by the 2018 Kilauea summit collapses for the buildings to safely reopen. In their place, however, would be built an open-air viewing shelter, and nearby parking and restroom facilities would be repaired.

Ferracane said a viewing platform would be safer to access than the museum, would require no staffing and would allow visitors to continue to enjoy views of Halema‘uma‘u Crater.

The proposed Uekahuna Bluff plans are included alongside four different concepts for the Kilauea Visitor Center area of the park. Each of the concepts includes proposed expansions for the visitor center, but vary significantly in execution.

Three concepts, for example, would convert the existing visitor center into an education center and staff offices while maintaining its current theater space. One of those concepts would build a new visitor center adjacent to the current site; another would build the new center across the road from it. And a third would build it next to Kilauea Military Camp.

A fourth concept would maintain the current center, but add a new building that would be connected to the existing one with an extended lanai.

Each concept also proposes different locations for a new USGS field office. One proposes a site next to the visitor center, another offers one next to the backcountry permits office and two suggest locations next to KMC.

Tina Neal, scientist-in-charge at HVO, said HVO does not currently have a preferred office location within the park, but added any site closer to Kilauea would be preferable to the current situation, which has HVO operating out of Hilo, requiring lengthy commutes for any field work.

“We’d like to get a centralized location in or near the park, but our staff are making it work for now,” Neal said. “It’s worth noting that we are in a period of volcanic quiet, but if (the volcanoes) were to become more active, it would be harder for us to work.”

Some of the concepts also make changes to the park’s roadways, including a roundabout on Crater Rim Drive or an additional lane at the entrance station. All concepts include at least 100 new parking spaces within the park.

Ferracane said all of the concepts are subject to change, and the final project — which she said will take at least five years — might be a combination of elements from each of the plans or contain wholly different elements, depending on community input.

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Between Friday and June 15, community members will be able to review the plans and submit comments via telephone or a comment sheet on the National Park Service website. Links to the plans can be found at https://bit.ly/HVNPplanning.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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