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BLNR OKs increase in park fees

Land Board members on Friday approved unanimously a State Parks proposal to increase an array of parks-related fees in an effort to increase revenue.

“The time has come for us to really just catch up with our fees,” State Parks Administrator Curt Cottrell told members of the state Board of Land and Natural Resources on Friday in Honolulu.

The changes would generate an estimated $8.7 million in new revenue statewide for the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of State Parks, which oversees 54 units across the state, including more than a dozen on the Big Island. It includes increases to camping and cabin charges for all users and modifying entrance and parking fees for nonresidents.

The division next will begin the process of holding public hearings to finalize the amendments to the rule. Meetings would be scheduled in West Hawaii and East Hawaii, as well as on the other islands.

“By no means does it mean once you guys approve and I go out to public hearing and we come back and get this through that we’re going to charge every where,” Cottrell explained.

That’s because the Board of Land and Natural Resources would have to approve any contract the division seeks to execute to collect entrance and/or parking fees.

“The public will get another helping in comment once we identify additional park units where we may want to set up a parking and entry type situation that we have at places like we do at Iao, Hapuna, Waimea and Kokee, Haena, Akaka Falls, Nuuanu Pali and Diamond Head,” he said, later explaining to board members that some parks don’t have the economy of scale for a contractor to operate, such as Lapakahi State Historical Park in North Kohala, which doesn’t see as many people come through as Hapuna.

Cottrell said the money is needed to bolster the division’s $14 million budget, of which approximately 80% of goes toward salaries and wages and lifeguard services. That leaves just 20% — about $2.8 million — for everything else like utilities, repairs and maintenance. Deferred maintenance stands at $40 million.

According to the division, the current fee schedule adopted in 2015 is based upon rates established over 20 years ago, “with no increase to keep pace with the rate of inflation and the vastly increasing Hawaii tourism industry.” The increased revenues would be reinvested in the system to “offset impact and improve the quality of the resources and the experience for both residents and visitors alike,” a background report for the request reads.

As written, the rule would establish fees based by park property, or nomenclature, rather than fees being designated by specific parks.

For state monuments, parks, recreation areas and historic parks, residents with Hawaii ID would continue to enter free of charge, and nonresidents would be assessed a $5 entrance fee.

In addition, those properties, which include Hapuna State Recreation Area and Akaka Falls State Park on the Big Island, would charge a $10 parking fee on all out-of-state, noncommercial vehicles. Commercial vehicles with one to seven passengers would pay $25 with the largest of vehicles being charged $90.

Entrance fees have been assessed on nonresidents at Akaka Falls State Park since December 2010 and parking fees have been collected from nonresidents at Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area since April 2013.

Including four other state properties that assess fees across the state, $2.9 million was generated last year. Of that, approximately $231,000 came from Akaka Falls and $321,000 from Hapuna last year. Cottrell estimates the figure for Akaka Falls will triple and Hapuna will more than double under the new fee structure.

Fee modifications are also proposed for camping, cabin rentals and day-use of pavilions, among others, according to the proposal.

Under the proposed rules, the resident fee per night, per campsite would increase from $12 to $20 while nonresidents would shell out $30, up from $18. Cabin fees at Hapuna and Kalopa State Recreation Area would also go up by $10 for both residents and nonresidents under the proposal.

The proposed rules can be viewed at the Division of State Parks Hawaii District Office at 75 Aupuni St., Room 204, in Hilo. They are also available online at https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dsp/administrative-rules/ or http://ltgov.hawaii.gov/the-office/administrative=rules.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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