Lava viewing site takes shape

  • Fissure 8 has shown minor activity since it died down. No spattering or glow was visible during a drone flyover on Sept. 11. Steam in background is due to recent rainfall. (Courtesy photo)

HILO — “Managing expectations” will be key to the success of a public-private partnership to create a lava viewing area now that the lava flow has subsided.

County administration on Tuesday laid out its plans to create a lava viewing platform and a short trail just past Lava Tree State Park near the “Y” where Highway 132 meets Pohoiki Road. From there, people will be able to see the vast expanse of fresh lava and Fissure 8, which is currently inactive.


The project is still a few months away, as one component must go through the permitting process and another out for competitive bids. The cost has not yet been determined, but officials have asked for funding in the county’s disaster relief package to the state Legislature.

Mayor Harry Kim had sought to open up a viewing area much sooner, while the lava was active, but consultations with the Hawaii Volcano Observatory and others convinced the county it was too dangerous.

“A few weeks into the event, the mayor said we need to share the majesties of this historic geologic event,” said county Research and Development Director Diane Ley, adding the hoped-for outcome is a “managed viewing site that is respectful of adjacent properties and residences, respectful of our environment … and provide opportunities to businesses within and outside Pahoa.”

Puna Councilwoman Eileen O’Hara, whose district includes most of the area inundated by the May 3 lava flow, had asked for the update. O’Hara has been pushing to help businesses suffering from loss of income after the lava flow emergency.

There may be less to see now, but Barrett Otani, one of Kim’s executive assistants, envisions a cultural and geological experience that could be duplicated around the island. There could be such a center celebrating Kona coffee, for example, or the Honokaa paniolo.

The plan includes county-contracted shuttle buses to ferry passengers from a parking lot in downtown Pahoa to a cultural center at a location know as “the Hub,” across from Pahoa High and Intermediate School. The center, on property owned by Gilbert Aguinaldo, would feature exhibits, a movie theater, eateries, a gift shop and cultural displays to educate the public. It would rent space out to nonprofits.

The center would consist of tents until a permanent structure could be built. The shuttles would then progress to the lava viewing site.

The cultural center was unveiled Aug. 30 at a meeting of federal, state and local officials, tourism leaders and property owners. The meeting, held at Liko Lehua Pauahi Cafe, was organized by Mainstreet Pahoa.

“It’s been a frustration for everybody,” Ley said. “Businesses saw it as a loss of commercial activity … families … even practitioners were concerned that they weren’t allowed to get close to the lava.”

Council members asked few questions about the plan.

“Right now, it’s all very fluid. Lets just keep pushing forward,” said Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy.

Ley said a key will be “re-education of people and their expectations if we don’t have flowing lava.”


Lee Loy agreed, saying she hopes some of the areas can be left pristine.

“I think the most important thing is to manage the expectations,” Lee Loy said.

  1. Scooby October 3, 2018 6:12 am

    Why are we still talking about this Mayor, the Lava stopped flowing and roads are open. The talking and planning and more planning to get nothing done is mind blowing. Kim is at the end of his second year and still nothing accomplished and nothing will.

  2. Ken Conklin October 3, 2018 6:35 am

    How ridiculous this whole thing is. Who the heck wants a “lava viewing area” long after the lava has stopped flowing? The government is doing what it always does — telling us what we are not allowed to do, controlling our lives with regulations and delays until they figure out what they think is “best for us.” About 35 years ago, as a tourist here for just a couple of weeks, I drove as near to the flowing lava as the road would take me, got out, walked perhaps a mile over jagged recent a’a flows until I got to within 2-3 ft. of active lava flowing maybe one yard per hour, just enough to actually see it moving, black crust on top of bright red liquid fire, so hot I couldn’t get any closer. It was a highlight of my trip; something I will never forget. How much more magnificent it would have been to see a fast-flowing river of red lava. Huge attraction for locals and tourists alike. But the bureaucrats, delighted to wield their power to control us and “protect” us, have delayed so long that there’s nothing left to see except dead black lava rock that’s no different from anywhere else where lava might have flowed a thousand years ago. Ridiculous.

    This reminds me of when I was a tourist driving a rental car through Greece, sightseeing. I noticed a town on the map whose name was “Panorama” so I drove several miles off my intended route just to see the splendid views of a place with such a name. But it turned out to be merely an ordinary hill town with very ordinary views. How disappointing!

    1. Nope October 4, 2018 10:50 pm

      Funny that the un-educated goons and military pyjama outfitted so called Nation guard all the sudden became experts in safety of the public. Those goons have no problems to bomb civilians abroad – Mayor Kim a member of the Pearl Harbor bombing ethnic crowd called them in.

  3. guest October 3, 2018 8:13 am

    A lava viewing site that features no flowing lava? Even more stupid is talk of permanent government buildings. They should never build anything here given the risks. When will people of Hawaii wake up and make a change in leadership? The current path seems equal to self punishment or even suicide.

  4. Ernest T Bass October 3, 2018 8:24 am

    perhaps some synthetic lava that could recirculate would do the trick.

    1. Du Mhan Yhu October 3, 2018 9:09 am

      Snark………..Too much initiative required for all that.

      1. Ernest T Bass October 3, 2018 1:56 pm

        How about just a Kulolo stand then?

  5. Michael October 3, 2018 11:43 am

    nanny state wants to fine you thousands for seeing anything remotely interesting but happy to spend millions to let you see cold dead lava

  6. JTTRI October 3, 2018 1:08 pm

    You mean, big black rock and ash viewing area, My God Kim is a moron. Who will take his place ??

    1. guest October 4, 2018 3:16 am

      Who you ask? If history is any indication it’s likely to be another moron elected by morons.

  7. metalman808 October 3, 2018 2:23 pm

    Is our elected officials really this brain dead. enough of the brain dead Asians running Hawaii. Bring in some Hawaiians to run Hawaii. The machine is so stinking PILAU it’s pathetic

    1. diverdave October 4, 2018 5:10 pm

      metalman808, the problem is that they are all part something. Is there any pure anything today? Well, maybe a few. Instead of talking sovereignty nonsense, tell your folks to VOTE.

  8. Buds4All October 3, 2018 3:38 pm

    “go through the permitting process and another out for competitive bids.” is this a lottery system for government employees and their families?

  9. Buds4All October 3, 2018 3:41 pm

    I am just going to smoke me some of that there hippie twigs and stare at my lava wall, that should do it!

  10. Nope October 4, 2018 10:48 pm

    Nothing to see anymore! You lost your chance.

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