National parks eye more fee increases

National Park Service officials are seeking feedback on a plan to quadruple the entry fee to the popular Puuhonua o Honaunau site in South Kona.

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National Park Service officials are seeking feedback on a plan to quadruple the entry fee to the popular Puuhonua o Honaunau site in South Kona.

Entry into the sacred site and former royal grounds, also known as City of Refuge, would increase from $5 per vehicle to $20, under a plan set to go into effect next June if approved. Walk-in visitors would pay $10, up from $3, and the motorcycle fee would increase from $3 to $15. The Tri-Park Annual Pass, with access to Puuhonua and Hawaii Volcanoes and Haleakala national parks is set to remain at $25 until 2017, when it would increase to $50. The senior pass will remain at $10 and children younger than 16 will continue to be admitted free.

The increases put the park in line with similar facilities around the country and is part of a larger initiative to standardize fees, said Superintendent Tammy Duchesne, who urged residents to weigh in. The increase was determined by looking at fees for other national parks of a similar size and visitor flow. The public comment period for the proposal runs through Dec. 15.

Vehicle and per-person fees at the park have not increased since 2004.

Puuhonua features a former royal mausoleum, canoe houses, a compound wall and numerous other historical structures that continue to hold great significance to many Native Hawaiians. Fees in the past have been used to shore up the Great Wall and the Hale o Keawe temple, improve trails and picnic areas and upgrade the park’s amphitheater.

The 420-acre facility had 363,282 visitors in 2013. Park officials say they understand the special relationship between the park and the public and are committed to keeping entry fees affordable.

Duchesne said that, because the facility is federal, a sliding scale favoring island residents probably isn’t allowable. State parks that have implemented fees on the island have targeted them at visitors while keeping access free for residents.

“I don’t think we can differentiate,” Duchesne said. “People can propose it and I can see what is allowable.”

The fee increases would help improve park infrastructure and visitor services, including possible digital mapping and virtual access to cultural sites and trails, and Web-based access to park museum collections. The increases would also help rehabilitate cultural landscapes and fund road shoulder, according to NPS.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park floated a plan earlier this month to phase in fee increases over the next couple of years.

Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park will remain free, Duchesne said. There are currently no fees in place to visit the Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site in Kawaihae and no plans to put them in place, officials there said.

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The public can comment on the proposed increases by writing a letter to Superintendent Tammy Duchesne, Puuhonua o Honaunau NHP, P.O. Box 129, Honaunau, HI 96726

Feedback may also be provided at nps.gov/puho/index.htm.

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