State finds new parking vendor for Diamond Head, Pali and Akaka Falls

Parking at Diamond Head State Monument will no longer be free.

On Monday, we reported Moana Parking, the vendor that manages the lot, went bankrupt. Visitors were told they could park in the lot for free.

On Tuesday, we learned the state has found another vendor to take care of the parking, which generates a lot of money for the state.

So starting Wednesday, parking fees at Diamond Head State Monument will resume.

Officials at the Department of Land and Natural Resources say this situation was a hard lesson learned.

Administrator Curt Cottrell says he was stunned to find out Moana Parking went bankrupt. The company informed the state late Friday afternoon, ceasing all operations immediately.

"We had to rally," said Cottrell. "We cannot leave Diamond Head State unattended. There are 3,000 people a day who come to the park. The traffic congestion in the tunnel would have been horrendous."

DLNR says parking fees at Diamond Head, Nuuanu Pali State Wayside and Akaka Falls on the Big Island generate about 23 percent of its operating income, and Moana Parking's bankruptcy meant a huge hit for the state.

"The downside of these public-private partnerships is when you have one entity that has control, in this case of three parking venues, when they go down, the impact is huge," said Cottrell. "When there's one group that fails, in this case, we failed big time and had to rally really quickly to repair."

The state hired Pro Park to manage Diamond Head. Pro Park is a local parking firm that used to manage the park in 2014 before losing the bid to Moana Parking.

DLNR said finding a vendor for Nuuanu Pali State Wayside and Akaka Falls was more difficult because those parks use pay station machines that need to be replaced.

On Thursday, it announced an interim permit agreement was reached with Diamond Parking Services, which will begin operating and collecting entrance and parking fees effective Saturday, April 25.

Diamond Parking Services was a previous operator at both parks in 2010. Its familiarity with parking at this location allowed it to begin work on short notice, officials said.

The agreement provides for both parking control and fee collection for commercial tour operators and non-residents. Residents at both parks do not pay fees.

State Parks plans to seek Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) approval of a more formal agreement at its meeting on May 8, 2015 and will seek approval for a new, longer term competitive bidding process.

Under the agreement, Diamond Parking Services will pay the state a percentage of fees collected under similar terms approved by the BLNR for Moana Parking.

DLNR also says it will examine how it does business with contractors to make sure this doesn't happen again.

"We can look at these companies a little deeper perhaps when we go out to bid, and look at performance measures over time. See what we learned from here to suss our future problems. We never saw this coming. It came out of left field," said Cottrell.

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