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Hawaiʻi visitor fee to fund preservation efforts takes shape at Legislature

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Sophia McCullough

The idea of a statewide visitor impact fee is taking shape at the state Legislature this session.

Several bills have been introduced, with some proposing a $50 environmental license for purchase. Visitors who spend the money would have access to state parks, beaches and trails for up to one year.

Those with Hawaiʻi licenses or proof of residency would be exempt.

Collected funds would then go toward a to-be-determined fund for the preservation and upkeep of state lands.

Alan Carpenter, with the parks division of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, said a new fee or license should not compete with established reservation programs, like the one at Hāʻena State Park.

"I think the green fee should be much more targeted at going beyond the state park boundaries into all of the, you know… the 30,000 acres of state parks are pretty well covered with the fee increase that we have enacted, and it's not working everywhere, but it's working great in the places where we have the reservation systems, etc.," Carpenter said.

"We do need to kind of spread the wealth within that park system, but we need to look at the other 1.8 million acres of DLNR lands, and the green fees should go to that, mostly to those areas outside," he added.

One proposal, House Bill 1162, passed out of the House Committee on Tourism. It would create new positions within DLNR to implement a visitor impact fee program, and request the state to study where money should go.

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