KAILUA-KONA — When Lauren and C.J. Huseby planned their trip to the Big Island they didn’t anticipate the government shutdown to impact their travels.
As the couple walked around the grounds of Pu‘uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park on Saturday while carrying their 8-month-old son Clayton they felt lucky to be there.
“We were more concerned about news on the lava eruption,” Lauren said as she and her husband talked about the planning of their trip. “It was an unexpected surprise. We didn’t think it would affect our visit.”
For the past 35 days, the government has been shut down due to an impasse between President Donald Trump and congressional leaders over funding for a U.S.-Mexico Border wall. As a result, about 800,000 federal workers were furloughed or worked without pay. National parks across the nation were also closed to the public. Pu‘uhonua o Honaunau and Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park were no exception.
However, on Friday the president and lawmakers came to a short-term solution, passing legislation that opened the government up until Feb. 15, while allowing talks over funding of the border wall to continue.
Pu‘uhonua o Honaunau and Kaloko-Honokohau reopened to the public at noon on Saturday. Volcanoes National Park’s visitor’s center was open during the shutdown, however, the majority of the park remained off limits to sightseers.
The Husebys first felt the impacts of the shutdown a few days ago when they went to visit the volcano. Lauren recalled the Chain of Craters Road being closed as well as several trails.
“We thought we were unlucky with the volcano but we were lucky here,” C.J. said of Pu‘uhonua o Honaunau.
C.J. added they were impressed with the number of rangers working to assist visitors at the volcano, whom they assumed were volunteering their time.
The Seattle couple enjoyed learning about Honaunau’s ancient site.
“We love history,” Lauren said. “It’s nice to see how people used to live.”
Despite the hiccup in their sightseeing, the Husebys have been more than satisfied with their visit to the Big Island thus far.
“It allows us to want to come back and see more,” Lauren said.
Bill and Mary Bennett, also of Washington state, said they didn’t realize the South Kona park had actually reopened as they stood in the shade of the palm trees on the sacred grounds.
“People come here because they want to see the beautiful island,” Mary said. “I’m grateful they’re starting to open things up.”
A couple days ago the couple attempted to go to Kaloko-Honokohau, but it was closed. However, Bill said they walked around and found another way into the park.
“It hasn’t been too big of a factor for us,” Bill said of the shutdown. “It is inconvenient for those who aren’t as mobile.”
The parks’ superintendent, Bill Thompson, said employees are happy to be returning to work, preserving and protecting the resources, working with the local communities, serving the American people and welcoming visitors to their national parks.
“Both parks are in excellent condition,” Thompson said. “There were National Park Service Protection Rangers working seven days a week at both parks throughout the shutdown period. We also received incredible support from the local communities and we appreciate the efforts made to support us.”
Thompson also thanked Hawaii Pacific Parks Association who they were able to work with through an agreement to reopen the visitor center at Pu’uhonua o Honaunau NHP.
For updated information about Pu‘uhonua o Honaunau visit www.nps.gov/puho.
For updated information about Kaloko-Honokohau visit www.nps.gov/kaho.