Hawaii unlikely to pay to reopen national parks


HONOLULU — Hawaii is unlikely to reopen national parks during the federal government shutdown, in part because it appears the state wouldn’t be reimbursed for doing so, a spokeswoman for the governor said Friday.

So far, only Utah and Colorado have jumped at a deal offered by the Obama administration that requires states to foot the bill for reopening with money they likely won’t see again.

Reimbursement isn’t the only issue that Hawaii must consider, but it’s “a huge factor,” said Louise Kim McCoy, a spokeswoman for Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

Each day, thousands of tourists visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island and the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, which is operated by the National Park Service. The sites, along with Haleakala National Park on Maui, are a major part of Hawaii’s tourism-driven economy.

The state already must think about paying for other federally funded programs if the shutdown continues, including food stamps, welfare, the National Guard, unemployment assistance and workplace safety, McCoy said.

“Those are more on the top of the list because of how they’re impacting families and children and their welfare,” McCoy said.

Closure of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, as well as Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, have impacted many businesses that rely on their traffic.

Janet Coney, office manager for the Kilauea Lodge in Volcano, said it “would have been nice” if the state had funding to contribute but understood it would have been a lot to ask.

The hotel has lost lodging and restaurant reservations since the shutdown began, she said.

“If we don’t have the funds, we don’t have the funds,” Coney said.

“To me, the responsibility lies on the federal government trying to get their act together. It shouldn’t rely on the state.”

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando said she wasn’t counting on the state taking over funding temporarily.

“We’re a little different animal out here in Hawaii,” she said. “We have so many other resources and places for people to visit.

“Of course, we really want them to come to our park.”

The park averages 4,500 visitors a day.

Even to open it for a week would have likely cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Orlando said the park has an annual appropriation of between $12 million and $15 million, with $7 million going toward permanent personnel costs.

Abercrombie said in a statement that Congress shouldn’t expect Hawaii or any other state to assume the obligations of the federal government.

“It is the clear responsibility of Congress to end the shutdown as quickly as possible, to meet continuously until that is accomplished, and restore all federal services,” the governor said.

Utah plans to reopen five national parks for 10 days after sending $1.65 million to the U.S. government. In Colorado, officials said a deal had been struck for the state to pay $360,000 to reopen Rocky Mountain National Park for 10 days to allow tourists to reach Estes Park. The visitors are needed to help the town recover from flooding.

Stephens Media Hawaii staff writer Tom Callis contributed to this report