Park officials don’t know when Volcanoes National Park will reopen

Posted at 4:01 PM, Jun 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-23 16:01:19-04

Earthquakes and explosions continue at Halemaumau Crater.

Volcanic ash coats roadways and parking lots throughout a majority of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

The popular Jaggar Museum overlook, where thousands of visitors once visited, is now heavily damaged with deep cracks.

Just this week, park officials removed museum artifacts and exhibit features from the park, knowing they might not be back.

“The building itself, the Jaggar Museum, has foundational damage to it with cracks going near the bottom of it and up. We don’t know if we’ll be able to use that building again,” said park spokesperson Jessica Ferracane.

The crater continues to grow, changing dramatically in just the past few weeks.

“The lava lake is gone and part of the crater are a thousand feet or deeper in parts,” Ferracane said.

With ongoing seismic activity, park officials says about two-thirds of the park has been closed since May 11 and it’s too early to tell when it will reopen.

Businesses in the area say most of their foot traffic depends on the park. Kilauea Lodge and Restaurant is used to being at 80 to 90 percent occupancy. But without visitors planning trips to Volcano, numbers are nowhere near that.

“We normally run a pretty high occupancy during the summer months. Right now we’re probably running maybe 30 percent,” Janet Coney, general manager of Kilauea Lodge and Restaurant, said.

Down the road, Ohelo Cafe had to lay off some staff and eliminate lunch service.

While times are tough, both businesses say it has resulted in the community coming together.

“Farmers in the area are coming around giving donations, community members coming in to eat to keep the businesses alive. I feel like the business and restaurants up here that are usually in competition are actually becoming closer,” Jonah Van Gieson, head chef of Ohelo Cafe, said.

A group of business have created a website to encourage visitors to come to Volcano and remind them that there is much more to the area that just the park.

“Everyone has a livelihood up here and we’re trying our best to make sure everyone is taken care of,” Coney said.

Park officials says Hawaii Volcanoes National Park’s Kahuku unit in Kau still remains open to visitors.