Big drop in visitors to Hawaii's National Parks

Mike Casciato
Mike Casciato
Ted Nicholls
Ted Nicholls

By Paul Drewes - bio | email

Pearl Harbor - With more kids out of school, and families on vacation, summer is usually a busy time for Hawaii's National Parks.

But this year, there has been a drastic drop in the number of visitors and residents checking out the sights. That is having an impact on Oahu's most popular National Park.

It is a powerful reminder of the deadly impact of war. The USS Arizona Memorial brings many from around the country and the world to pay their respects to those who died in the attack at Pearl Harbor.

"Being from the 1940s and 50s, we remember the war and we know the sacrifices that were made," said Ted Nicholls, of Oklahoma.

On the weekend before Independence Day, the crowds are unusually thin at the Arizona Memorial, just one of several National Parks in the islands seeing fewer visitors.

"Its really, really slow, normally when the economy was good and there was no construction, we would have run out of tickets by noon but not today," said Mike Casciato, with the Pearl Harbor Memorial Association.

The drop in visitors is important, because they are raising funds for a new memorial complex and every dollar counts. But along with the downturn in attendance they've also seen a drop in donations.

"We used to average about a $1000 a day. But its affected us to the point where we only get $400-$500 a day," added Casciato.

Attendance at the World War II Valor in the Pacific attractions, like the Arizona Memorial dropped 10% from last year.

Other sites, like the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park saw about a 9 % decrease.

And there's been a 17% drop in visitors to Haleakala.

While some appreciate shorter lines and less of a wait to see these historic sights, there is also a touch of sadness that more aren't taking in this important place of our past.

"This country needs to rely on tradition and history or we'll all lose. We all know that," said Nicholls.

Even though donations are down at the Arizona Memorial, construction for the new complex has begun to replace the current aging and sinking one. Right now, it is scheduled to be completed at the end of 2010, even as necessary funds are still being raised.