The Shutdown Isn’t Stopping Tourists From Flocking to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Jan 1, 2019

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The government shutdown hasn’t stopped people from visiting national parks, and across the US, the administration’s decision to leave the parks open while the government that cares for them is shut down has created havoc. In Hawaii, one of the most visited parks in the US, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, is still seeing a strong influx of visitors. 

With the shutdown leaving the park without any visitor services, no one is collecting entrance fees. Tourists are still coming in large numbers to the park to catch a glimpse of Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes in the world, according to the Hawaii Tribune Herald. But they are left with only a few “accessible spots” in the park with the closure of Chain of Craters Road, with far less opportunity for those looking to visit the iconic Kilauea volcano.

Parts of the park were already closed after Kilauea’s eruption in May of 2018, giving tourists even less flexibility to explore HVNP.  The government shutdown is affecting more than aspiring hikers and travelers. The U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, which is responsible for monitoring the volcanic activity in the park, has been reduced to a “skeleton crew” of eight scientists, according to Tina Neal, HVO scientist in-charge, reported the Hawaii Tribune Herald.

While the park isn’t getting entrance fees, local businesses are staying afloat thanks to the continued tourism. Ira Ono, owner of Volcano Garden Arts and Cafe, told the Hawaii Tribune Herald that as long as the park is “barely open” then “we’re okay.” Concern for the financial stability of local businesses comes on the heels of Kilauea’s eruption, leaving the main park area at the summit closed for 134 days.

 At HVNP, visitors are fighting for the limited space in the parking lots. The Hawaii Tribune Herald reported that visitors are parking on the curbs and even in the grass — one visitor even getting stuck in the mud while doing so.

The HVNP released a press release on Dec. 21 listing the park’s spots that remain open. According to the press release, the park will remain as accessible as possible while complying with the law.

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