New parking area planned for Mauna Kea visitor center

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The Office of Mauna Kea Management plans to nearly double the number of parking stalls at the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station.

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The Office of Mauna Kea Management plans to nearly double the number of parking stalls at the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station.

The project would add a new paved parking area, bringing the number of stalls to 40, up from 24.

The new parking lot would be placed just south of the visitor center where a longhouse is located, according to a draft environmental assessment. One cabin would be relocated.

The visitor center is located at 9,200 feet above sea level and is a popular spot for star gazing. Visitors also stop there to acclimate to the altitude before driving to Mauna Kea’s summit.

But the small parking area isn’t enough to accommodate the traffic, according to the planning document, which says between 120 and 200 vehicles a night stop at the visitor center during peak periods.

When the lot is full, visitors instead use the side of the road or an unpaved area for parking.

The $1.53 million project also would include a new paved access lane, paved path, improved drainage and a greenhouse, which will aid habitat restoration.

The assessment anticipates construction beginning mid-2017 and lasting up to a year.

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The document says between 60 and 65 mamane tree stems would be removed as a result of construction. At least 130 mamane seedlings will be planted as mitigation.

Mauna Kea management operates under the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

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