Sunny start for online summit reservation system

Visitors gather to watch the sunrise Wednesday at the crater rim of Haleakala. National park officials reported that a new online reservation system to admit motorists from 3 to 7 a.m. was successful in reducing crowding at the summit. Haleakala National Park photo

The Maui News – Haleakala National Park officials reported roughly a third of normal crowds gathered to watch sunrise at the dormant volcano’s summit on Wednesday, the first day of the park’s new reservation system for early-morning visitors.

Wednesday marked the first time visitors were required to use an online reservation system at recreation.gov to gain vehicle entrance to the park from 3 to 7 a.m.

All 150 parking reservations were sold out by 4 p.m. Tuesday, according to park spokeswoman Polly Angelakis.

The park estimates an occupancy of approximately 2.5 people per vehicle, she said. So, the park saw about 375 people watching sunrise at the crater on Wednesday, compared with a previous daily average of more than 300 vehicles and 1,000 people.

Overcrowding at the crater led to unsafe conditions such as people wandering off trails in the dark to try to get away from crowds, she said. At times, people fell over lava rocks.

“It was not a safe situation,” she said.

On Wednesday, “sunrise visitors commented on how peaceful and uncrowded the sunrise was,” Angelakis said. “Many expressed gratitude that, due to the park reservation system, they were guaranteed a sunrise parking spot. From 3 a.m. on, park rangers greeted cars and checked reservations near the park entrance, while other park staff assisted visitors in the summit area parking lots.”

People in 35 vehicles that did not have reservations were not admitted before 7 a.m., she said. Then, when park admission was unrestricted, there were 16 vehicles waiting get in, she added.

Angelakis said the park would do more outreach to get the word out about the online reservation system.

She credited the new system’s successful implementation to the park’s partnership with officials at the Kahului Airport, the Maui Visitors Bureau and the state Department of Transportation’s Highways Division.

The online reservation system was implemented to ensure visitor and employee safety, protect natural and cultural resources and provide a quality visitor experience during the early-morning hours at Haleakala’s summit. Online reservations cost $1.50 per vehicle and must be paid at the time a reservation is made. The fee is in addition to park entrance fees.

The system allows reservations to be made at least 60 days in advance.

The reservation system doesn’t change park policy regarding Native Hawaiians’ traditional practices or its policy for sunrise tours.

More information is available by calling 572-4400 or visiting recreation.gov or the park’s website at www.nps.gov/hale.


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