The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has experienced extreme changes since the eruptions. Even a dramatic drop in visitation numbers, which is no surprise.
Two other national parks on the Big Island were also impacted. However, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park saw the biggest drop because of the eruption. The park draws visitors from all of the world. Before the Kilauea eruption, the park saw an average of about 5-thousand visitors a day. For four months they had to turn visitors away for their safety.
“That was really sad. I mean, people come from other countries. They don’t understand necessarily what’s going on,” said CEO and President of Friends of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Elizabeth Fien.
There were 1,116,000 visitors last year. That’s down 44-percent. We’re told now that the natural structure of the park has changed because of the eruption and earthquakes, the daily average has fluctuated.
“Management in the park thinks that we may see lower numbers again this year certainly not 44 percent lower because we planned to be open but because the absence of the red lava that could impact our visitation but a lot of visitors are kind of liking that quieter experience now,” said Jessica Ferracane, Public Affairs Specialist for the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. “Certain locations aren’t as crowded, you’re finding a little bit more solitude than you did before and we have these amazing new views of Halemaumau. You can actually see where crater rim trail fell into the crater.”
During the government shutdown that started in December and ran into the early part of this year, the park was able to stay open with limited services.
Here on Oahu, the World War II Valor saw an 8-percent drop in visitors. Overall, the number of visitors to national parks in Hawaii dropped 19-percent last year.