Hawaii National Park closures hurt local economy - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Hawaii National Park closures hurt local economy

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The two biggest tourist attractions on Hawai'i Island and Maui are closed, along with 399 other national parks, as a result of the partial federal government shutdown.

Officials say on Hawai'i Island, as many as 7,000 visitors a day will be turned away from the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, Pu'uhonua o Honaunau and Pu'ukohola Heiau.

One couple visiting from Romania drove more than two hours from Kona to the Volcanoes National Park only to be turned around by park rangers.

"We're leaving soon, so we're a bit disappointed," the visitor said.

And they're not alone.  Officials say park-goers generate more than a quarter million dollars a day to the local economy.

"It's unfortunate, we're very saddened that we have to advise our visitors who come from so far and who spend so much money to visit us," said Cindy Orlando, the Superintendent of Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.

It's not just access to the park that's affected, several businesses operating within the park boundaries, like the Volcano House Hotel and the Namakanipaio cabins, will also be shuttered.

"Those guests will have 48 hours to find alternative lodging and leave the park.  They actually have until Thursday at 6 PM to relocate," explained Orlando.

According to Jessica Ferracane, the Public Affairs Officer for Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, at Volcano House, which just re-opened a few weeks ago, guests from as far away as Belgium, Switzerland, South Korea, Japan, Australia and Germany all chose to check out early, despite the Thursday deadline because they are unable to explore the park and see the sights.

An island away on Maui, it's the same story.

"All morning, we've had to turn visitors away.  29 businesses that are currently permitted to offer commercial activities or tours – they can't come into the park – and so there's a great economic effect to the local community," described Polly Angelakis, Chief of Interpretation & Education at Haleakala National Park.

Statewide hundreds of local federal employees were furloughed Tuesday, with just a handful remaining on duty at each park to provide security and emergency services.  Many of those who are still working spent Tuesday calling and canceling every single permitted event or activity involving their area or staff.

"If we had weddings scheduled in the park, those would have to be canceled.  All of our daily tours were canceled, our school programs are canceled.  The park's participation in the Maui County Fair will be canceled if the shutdown continues through this coming weekend," said Angelakis.

Every day that passes is another paycheck employees can't cash, another memory visitors won't make, and another dollar the local economy loses out on.

"We look forward to this being resolved and we can't wait to open the gates to people so they can visit their National Parks," Angelakis said.

"We want them to have a great experience when they visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and it's our hope that we'll be able to do that very, very soon," said Orlando.

All of the National Parks in Hawai'i have been closed, including:

· Ala Kahakai National Historic Trails, Hawaii Island

· Haleakala National Park, Maui

· Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii Island

· Kalaupapa National Historic Park, Molokai

· Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, Hawaii Island

· Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park, Hawaii Island

· Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site, Hawaii Island

· USS Arizona Memorial, Oahu

· USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park, Oahu

In addition, the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Visitor Center on Maui and the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge on Kauai have been closed.

The Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor and Battleship Missouri Memorial on Oahu will remain open.

Mike McCartney, president and CEO of the Hawai'i Tourism Authority released this statement:

"Despite the federal government shutdown, Hawai'i is open for business. All of the state and county parks, beaches and trails remain open and none of the state's airports have been affected. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Towers, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are continuing to operate at Hawai'i's airports, as essential personnel.  The HTA will continue to monitor the federal government shutdown and how it may impact Hawai'i and our visitor industry. We hope that a compromise will be reached soon and this shutdown will have a limited effect on our community and the thousands of federal workers here in the state."

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