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Visitors To Pay Kauai Park Fees As Concerns Rise About Overcrowding

Scot Nelson

Kauai tourists will need to save their change if they're planning a visit to two of the island’s most popular state parks.

Starting Friday, the state plans to charge out-of-state visitors and commercial buses fees to park at Koke’e and Waimea Canyon State Parks. Residents, however, can enter the parks for free after showing identification.

Out-of-state visitors will be charged $5 per vehicle or $1 per person if they are travelling on foot or by motorbike. Residents can get in for free upon showing state I-D.

Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources officials said the fees will offset increasing park operating and maintenance costs. The state cited the closure of H?’ena State Park that caused a loss in permit revenue and damage from rockslides on the Nu’uanu Pali Lookout that increased expenses in explaining the need for more fees.

In such places as H?’ena State Park, DLNR aims to reduce the number of tourists that flock to the population area. Curt Cottrell, state parks administrator, said creating or increasing parking and entrance fees can prevent overcrowding.  

“Our income stream at H?’ena is marginal,” says Cottrell. “[Fees are] mainly a means of controlling and reducing the number of people that go in there, as part of our social contract with the community, as a means to reduce the impacts of overtourism.”

Cottell said if the state finds success in minimizing the crowds at H?’ena, the same approach can be used at other state parks that face overcrowding.

DLNR estimates it could see income of $300,000 annually from the state park fees. Currently, Diamond Head State Park produces the largest amount of income through fees, earning about $1 million a year.

The state is re-evaluating the park fees and expects to raise them next year.

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