Friday, September 7, 2001

Hawaii County

Lava access to
reopen for a price

By Rod Thompson

KALAPANA, Hawaii >> Hawaii County will reopen its lava-viewing access road tomorrow but will begin charging fees for access.

The charges will be $5 per passenger vehicle and $20 for commercial passenger carriers, the county announced.

"These fees are aimed at defraying the costs of the viewing program, which include road maintenance, security and guide/interpreters," a county statement said.

In case anyone doubts the value they will be getting, the statement added, "The viewing is spectacular."

That was an apparent reference to a surface flow moving downhill inland from the shoreline viewing site.

Three sections of the flow glow brightly during the night, and the lava is burning a remnant of forest in the middle section of the three, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said.

Although easily visible, that flow is more than a mile from the viewing site, posing no immediate danger.

When the access road was opened Aug. 17, there was no surface flow. All lava to the sea was moving through an underground tube, and the main attraction at the edge of the sea was steam created by lava hitting the water.

The county closed the access road Aug. 30 as a fresh finger of surface lava threatened the road and then crossed it but stagnated a few days later.

New gravel has been placed on top of that fresh flow.

The charging of fees will allow extended viewing hours. Previously, the county scheduled viewing during an eight-hour period, from 2 to 10 p.m., so workers staffing the area would not have to be paid overtime.

Now the public will be allowed entry starting at 10 a.m.

Another minor change is that the last cars will be permitted in at 8:15 p.m. The previous cutoff time was 8:30 p.m.

The entrance fees will be waived for Kalapana residents, area property owners and Hawaiians exercising traditional hunting and fishing rights.

The county repeated previous advisories that the sandy beach covers a "bench" of highly unstable new rock, that the steam is thick with hydrochloric acid and that there are few portable toilets in the area.

Hawaii County

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