HILO — Hawaii Volcanoes National Park returned to normal operations Monday after more than a month of partial closures during the shutdown of the federal government.
All sections of the park that were closed because of the 35-day shutdown were reopened as of Monday, three days after the shutdown ended Friday, said parks spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane.
The newly reopened sites include Chain of Craters Road, most backcountry campsites, Mauna Ulu and more. With the reopening of the government, the park also resumed collection of entrance fees at the main unit, which had halted during the closure. The Kahuku Unit, which opens Wednesday, does not collect entrance fees.
However, not all areas of the park are open.
Ferracane said drier conditions related to El Nino caused an increased fire risk around Mauna Loa Road, which is consequently closed to drivers, although it remains open to pedestrians and bicyclists.
Similarly, the Mauna Loa summit was closed Monday because of extremely high wind speeds; the National Weather Service reported gusts of up to 85 miles per hour at the summit.
Meanwhile, other parts of the park that were closed in the wake of the 2018 Kilauea eruption — such as the Thurston Lava Tube — remain closed.
The full reopening of the park coincided with a boost to visitation rates, which Ferracane attributed to the approaching Lunar New Year, a holiday that typically attracts a high amount of east Asian vacationers to the park.
“It was great to be able to have so much more space for the visitors,” Ferracane said.
Unfortunately, the reopening of the park might be temporary.
Upon ending the shutdown, President Donald Trump suggested the government could shut down again if congressional Republicans and Democrats cannot reach an agreement by Feb. 15 on the polarizing question of what border security projects should be funded in a package for Homeland Security.
“It’s still too early to say how that would go (for the park),” Ferracane said. “I think it’s safe to say we would do something similar, but it’s still early to say.”
Regardless whether it is temporary, the end of the shutdown is a reprieve for the 73 park employees who were unable to work during the closure. Although Ferracane said the furloughed employees missed two paychecks during the shutdown, she does not think any employee filed a resignation during that time.
“We’re all just so happy to get back to work,” Ferracane said, adding that, with the shutdown following closely behind the 134-day closure during the eruption, “it’s been a hard year for national parks across the nation, but especially for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.”
Attendees are reminded to drive with caution and not attempt to feed the endangered nene, which might appear on park roadways.