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Entrance, parking fees coming soon for Wai‘anapanapa State Park

Effort is part of the new East Maui Reservation Project

The beta prototype stage of a website being created to help alleviate over-tourism in East Maui would require that commercial vehicles and nonresidents pay a parking fee and a park entrance fee for Wai‘anapanapa State Park. After state fees are paid online, a QR code would be issued and checked onsite. East Maui Reservation Project meeting screenshots

In an effort to manage high traffic flow to Maui’s remote East Maui, a reservation system for commercial vehicles and individual tourists seeking to visit Wai’anapanapa State Park is anticipated to launch next month.

The site, mauiwayfinding.com, is in its beta prototype stage and being created in collaboration with Hawaii Tourism Association. It would require people to pay a parking fee and a park entrance fee. After state fees are paid online, a QR code would be issued and checked onsite.

Residents would not be required to pay a parking fee or an entrance fee, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources website.

Two residents would be hired full time to staff Wai’anapanapa park booths. Officials said the job will be posted this week.

The new system was part of a community update on the East Maui Reservation Project. A Facebook live meeting open to the public was hosted Saturday night by state Sen. J. Kalani English and Rep. Lynn DeCoite, who both represent East Maui, Molokai and Lanai.

East Maui residents and businesses are encouraged to participate in creating a website, now in its beta prototype stage, that will go live next month to help manage area traffic flow by requiring parking and entry reservations to Wai‘anapanapa State Park.

At the onset of the pandemic, Hana Highway was closed to nonresidents to prevent coronavirus spread and to also conduct work on the state highway.

English said lawmakers heard from residents concerned with high traffic volume, parking issues and the strain on natural resources tied to overtourism.

“We heard we don’t want to go back to how it was,” he said during the meeting.

As a follow-up to similar discussions about five months ago, software publishers Mayumi and Mike Nakamura of Seattle presented the website mauiwayfinding.com. The two said the site is a work in progress and asked that local Hana residents steer the website’s narrative.

“What makes this project very special, we really want the local community to take part in trying to tell your story,” Jacob Aki, state Senate communications director, said during the meeting. “Oftentimes when it comes to these tourism-type systems, it’s nonlocals trying to tell the story. We want to make sure ho’okipa (is valued): We’re not just hosting you in our homes; we are going to educate you; we will tell you our stories; we will tell you how to behave in a certain manner.”

Wai‘anapanapa State Park is shown in an image on a new website being created to help alleviate high traffic flow for East Maui. The site would require parking and entry fees for visitors. Entry and parking for residents are free.

Mayumi Nakamura said area stories, content and businesses are being sought for inclusion.

“We are talking with a few local food truck people, if you are interested in working with us for future function or schedules,” she said. “We need participants, the more the better, we help each other.”

English said the platform will also serve as a way to manage time for visitors. For example, people will have a certain time to be at the park, pick up lunch at a nearby food truck and get merchandise or gifts at a local shop, which will help manage the traffic flow.

“The rest of Maui County, Mayor Victorino has been very supportive of this and so has the visitor industry because it’s so outside the box,” English said. “They understand we need to do something new with the tourism industry.”

The developers created Kauai’s Ha’ena State Park online reservations system, gohaena.com. After Wai’anapanapa, they will work on a similar system for Diamond Head State Monument on Oahu.

Some Hana residents attending the meeting had questions about internet connectivity. Others asked about whether Hana residents would be prioritized for access over Hawaii residents not from Hana.

English said Spectrum and Hawaiian Telcom are working on getting internet service to the area. However, scanning QR codes will not not require internet service, and people may bring a downloaded copy or a hardcopy of the code, Mayumi Nakamura said.

English said priority for area residents and other rules will have to go through state DLNR.

Anticipated fees include $5 for nonresidents to enter the park, along with $10 parking fees for nonresidents and $25 to $90 for commercial vehicles depending on passenger load, according to the state DLNR website.

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kcerizo@mauinews.com.

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