There Could Be A New Normal In The Future Of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

With Tūtū Pele seemingly having come to the end of her latest eruptive run, staff at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park are working to get back to the business of running a national park, not responding to an erupting volcano. But it won’t be business as usual at the park now, or for the foreseeable future, as repairing the damage carries a bill of an estimated $100 million, at least, and some areas might not reopen for a long, long time.

For nearly four months the park’s Kīlauea volcano has been spewing lava and fracturing the surrounding landscape with earthquakes. Since May 11, the bulk of the park has been closed for public safety. Though the eruptions have ended, the damage to the park and the limited reopening scheduled for September 22, National Public Lands Day, has park staff rethinking how visitors should experience Hawai’i Volcanoes.

“Our resource is so dynamic that we’ve always been about change. It is an active volcano, and so we’ve always had to adapt and be flexible in terms of how we manage that resource in terms of vistiation,” Superintendent Cindy Orlando said during a phone call earlier this week. “Before the event in early May (when this year’s eruptions started), we had the highest visitation in the state. We were the most-visited attraction in 2017. We had 2 million visitors.

“So, for me, I guess I see this as an opportunity,” she went on. “The landscape is changed, but our footprint has always been limited. And now it’s even more so. In that regard, it’s like, ‘Wait a minute, maybe we don’t want to see 2 million visitors a year at this park. Or do we?'”

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