Haleakala National Park‘s ban on commercial downhill bike tours, which has been in effect for the last three years and followed the well-publicized death of a visitor, must be going very well because federal officials are proposing even more restrictions on commercial activities in the park. That’s according to the park’s new Commercial Services Plan Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), which is now being circulated for public comment.
The park consists of 32,222 acres and runs from sea level to 10,023 feet in elevation. Average rainfall ranges from 40 inches a year to 400. There are about 370 native species within the park’s confines, about 90 percent of which are endemic to Hawaii. The park sees about 1.2 million visitors every year, with between 15-30 percent arriving through commercial tours.
According to the EIS, those tours bring in a lot of revenue, but are now apparently doing more harm than good:
Up until 2007, Haleakalā National Park experienced a dramatic increase in commercial service use, particularly at the park’s two most developed and popular areas—the summit (and crater) and Kīpahulu. The resulting crowding and congestion have contributed to adverse impacts to visitor experience and to the park’s natural and cultural resources. Soil degradation, excessive erosion, trampling of vegetation, and disturbance of endangered species, such as the Haleakalā silversword and Hawaiian petrel, have occurred in localized areas. Crowding and inappropriate behavior have contributed to a loss of sense of place, which is often the initial reason visitors come to the park; interference with traditional cultural uses; and increased negative perceptions of the park by Native
Hawaiians. Commercial tours are believed to have contributed to these impacts in the past. A plan is needed to provide direction on addressing adverse effects that may be occurring due to commercial services.
Four options on what to do with commercial activities over the next 10-15 years are identified in the DEIS. Alternative A is the standard “No Action” plan, in which all current policies stay in effect. Bike tours remain banned, but all other current commercial activities can continue to grow, limited only by parking availability.
Alternative B, the so-called “Preferred Alternative,” includes new restrictions on commercial activities:
• all commercial tours would be prohibited throughout the park 3 to 5 days per year
• road-based tours would be managed through up to four concession contracts
• only road-based tours would be permitted to offer summit sunrise tours, and they could only park at the Haleakalā Visitor Center
• the number of parking stalls for road-based tours would be reduced at all times of the day
• the number of commercial service providers able to offer horseback riding tours in Kīpahulu would be reduced from 2009 levels (there would be no change in road-based hiking or astronomy tour commercial use authorizations)
• the number of trips per day each commercial service provider could offer would be limited for hiking, horseback riding, and astronomy tours
• commercial road-based tour providers would not operate motor coaches in the park at any time
• all commercial guides would be required to participate in training and be certified to operate in the park
Alternative C includes even more restrictions than the preferred option, while Alternative D goes the other way and opens the park gates to even more commercial activities than currently allowed.
The public comment period on the Commercial Activities DEIS runs through Aug. 31, 2012. Click here for more information on the plan as well as a link to download a PDF of the 262-page DEIS.
Those wishing to comment online can do so by clicking here. Otherwise, you can mail your comments to the following address:
Haleakalā National Park
PO Box 369
Makawao, HI 96768
Photo courtesy Haleakala National Park Facebook page