HALEAKALA NATIONAL PARK — A preliminary report by a National Park Service Analysis Team has found commercial downhill bicycle tours at Haleakala National Park to be one of the most “high-risk activities” at national parks, the Haleakala park chief said Friday.
Park Superintendent Marilyn Parris said that commercial downhill bicycle tours at Haleakala ranked among the highest-risk activities that include mountain climbing at Mount Rainier in Washington state, river rafting and mule riding in the Grand Canyon, river rafting in the Arkansas River in Colorado and commercial horse rides in the Rocky Mountains.
“Based on accidents and fatalities, it rates as one of the highest risks,” Parris said about the bike tours.
The findings were presented and discussed by the National Park Service Pacific West Region Board of Review meeting this past week in Oakland, Calif.
Parris said she would not comment further on the preliminary report, as she said that would be premature. A final report is being prepared and the National Park Service Analysis Team is expected to respond to questions raised at the meeting by board members, which include Parris.
The National Park Service Analysis Team was convened last year after Parris ordered a “safety stand-down” and temporarily banned downhill commercial bicycle tours from Haleakala National Park on Oct. 10.
She said it was the next prudent step following a fatal crash in September involving a bicyclist on tour, the second fatal commercial bicycle accident during the year.
In studying the situation, the team interviewed tour company personnel, their customers, medical staff and others affected by the ban.
Parris said the team should complete its report by the end of the month.
She will ultimately make a decision on whether to allow commercial bike tours in the park, and said she still expects her decision by the middle of March.
Until then, she said she expected park staff to follow up on questions as well as conduct additional discussions with park officials.
The “safety stand-down” does not apply to noncommercial bicycle riders in the park.
Parris said officials have seen a slight increase in noncommercial riders since the stand-down began. It is less than some predicted, she added.
But Parris said there is a difference between commercial and noncommercial riders. The park does not have any statistical data on accidents and or fatalities involving noncommercial bicycle riders.
Seven commercial bicycle tour companies had permits to conduct bike tours through the park. Two of those companies also have permits to carry passengers through the park in their vehicles and are still conducting van tours of the park before starting rides outside park boundaries.
At least one company has remained closed since the stand-down was ordered while awaiting a decision by the park on the future of guided downhill bicycle tours.
• Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.