Tourist park fees close to approval


POSTED: Friday, December 11, 2009

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources could issue a contract as early as next month to start charging fees at two more Oahu parks popular with tourists.

The Board of Land and Natural Resources is being asked at a meeting this morning to approve entry fees for tourists at eight parks statewide. The board previously approved parking fees of $5 per vehicle and a higher fee schedule for commercial tourist operations.

Residents would not be charged, and tourists would pay either a parking or entry fee but not both.

The approval of entry fees would give parking vendors an option to charge either upon entry or after a vehicle parks, said Curt Cottrell, the assistant administrator for the state Parks Division.

Cottrell said he has been meeting with parking companies and tour operators about the proposed rules, and if the entry fees are approved today as expected, the state hopes to hear proposals from parking vendors in January and could issue a contract soon afterward to collect fees from tourists at Nuuanu Pali and Ka Iwi state parks.

Depending on what happens with fees on Oahu, the DLNR could begin charging similar fees at the six other parks on Kauai, Maui and Hawaii island by the end of the year.

The entry fee proposal is part of a larger plan to raise up to $8 million a year to pay for repair, maintenance and operations at state parks, harbors, hiking trails, boat ramps and piers.

Also on today's agenda is a plan to raise boat mooring fees, which harbor users oppose.

The board is also being asked to approve the use of credit cards to collect camping fees over the Internet.

The increased camping fees were approved earlier this year along with a plan to reduce lines for camping permits by allowing reservations through a Web site.

Cottrell said the state is testing the online reservation system and could start using it next month if the board approves the credit card change.

Fees at the eight state parks are similar to what is already being charged at the Diamond Head State Monument, the only state park with entry fees. Tourists parking at Diamond Head pay $5 per vehicle or $1 per visitor, if they walk in.

But unlike at Diamond Head, the state will not build an entry booth to collect the fees. Parking vendors will have to pay for their own improvements or set up a self-operated pay box, Cottrell said.

The vendors will be able to tell who is a tourist or resident through a state ID or information on a credit card, he said.

A 2007 survey by the Hawaii Tourism Authority estimated more than 697,000 out-of-state visitors a year go to the Nuuanu Pali, while more than 558,000 tourists visit the Diamond Head State Monument.

The Ka Iwi park had not been completed in 2007, but 137,000 tourists visited Makapuu Point or the lighthouse.

Cottrell said that the state collected about $700,000 last year at Diamond Head, and about $300,000 went back into improvements at the park. The rest of the money stays within the department.

Surveys show tourists do not mind paying the fee if they know it will help improve the area, he said.

The increased fees are necessary, Cottrell said, because the department's budget has been cut by $5 million over the last six years.

“;We have to become self-sufficient and run state parks more like a business,”; he said. “;We're just trying to keep the doors open.”;





        The Board of Land and Natural Resources is being asked to approve entry fees for tourists at eight state parks popular with visitors:




 At most parksNuuanu Pali
Tourists (per car)$5$3
Commercial vehicles  
(1-7 passengers)$10$6
Commercial vehicles
(8-25 passengers)$20$12
Commercial vehicles
(25+ passengers)$40$24




        The fees at Nuuanu Pali are lower because most visitors spend only a few minutes there. There will be no charge for residents. Parks proposed for entry fees:

» Oahu: Nuuanu Pali State Wayside, Ka Iwi Scenic Shoreline
        » Hawaii: Akaka Falls State Park, Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area
        » Maui: Makena State Park, Iao Valley State Monument
        » Kauai: Haena State Park, Kokee and Waimea Canyon State Park