Nonresidents bear brunt of state park fee increases
• Photo gallery: Pay parking at Pali Lookout for non-residents
By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser Staff Writer
NU'UANU — The first of a series of new fees charged at state parks around Hawai'i took effect yesterday at Nu'uanu Pali State Wayside park, with other high-use parks to follow in the next couple of months.
Nonresidents who visit the Pali Lookout are now asked to pay a $3 parking fee at an "honor system" kiosk. Hawai'i residents are not asked to pay.
On Monday, camping and cabin fees at state parks go up, and next month boaters will pay higher fees at state recreational boat harbors. Parking fees at other state parks will be implemented later this year.
"We've reached the point where we have no choice but to figure out how to generate income, particularly with the Legislature looking at whatever loose change it can find," said Curt Cottrell, state parks assistant administrator. "We're looking for the quarters and nickels under the couch now. We need the fee."
The new fees and increases are part of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources' "Recreational Renaissance Plan B — Back to Basics" program that was approved last year.
The fees are expected to generate $8 million a year to pay for routine maintenance and repairs at parks, hiking trails and small boat harbors statewide.
The DLNR is charged with maintaining 69 state parks, an extensive trail system and small-boat harbors.
Park fees are not new in Hawai'i. In 2000, the state began charging an entry fee to Diamond Head Monument of $1 per person for walk-ins or $5 per carload.
Nu'uanu Pali is one of the most-visited state parks, with more than 900,000 visitors per year, according to a 2007 Hawai'i Tourism Authority survey.
Yesterday at the Pali, Anne and Tom Jackson of Canada inserted a $5 bill into the parking kiosk set up outside the overlook. The machine, however, is not set up to dispense change.
"It's OK as long as it goes to the upkeep of the park," Tom Jackson said. "But the machine needs to give you change. I just paid $5 for a $3 parking fee."
The parking fee at Nu'uanu Pali is projected to generate $2,500 a month, Cottrell said. A solar-powered pay station that is connected to the Internet was erected by the parking vendor hired by the state near the entrance to the lookout.
From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., an attendant is on duty answering questions and checking residents' IDs, Cottrell said. The park opens at 4 a.m. and closes at 8 p.m., so parking fee collection is on the honor system when the attendant isn't there.
"The deal is we're not charging locals," Cottrell said. "The assumption is most visitors are used to paying a fee already."
East Honolulu resident Tristan Sen yesterday said he understands the need for a fee at the Pali Lookout, but questioned why it was a parking fee at a place where people come for less than 15 minutes.
"I'm kind of shocked that they're charging," Sen said. "I grew up here and you never had to pay for any kind of park, especially here where you just drop in and stay for a few minutes. I can see if you are hiking or staying for a long time. It seems like a lot of money for a few minutes."