A Haleakala National Park official issued some safety warnings, expressed her appreciation for the graciousness of most visitors being turned away and for thoughtful residents offering water and coconut milk, and frustration at having to keep "the people's park" closed due to the federal government shutdown.
"It's disappointing," said Haleakala Chief of Interpretation Polly Angelakis on Thursday, the third day the park has been closed. "We want to let people in. We don't like turning people away."
But that's what park officials are having to do at the summit and in Kipahulu due to the clash in Congress over the budget.
Haleakala Chief of Interpretation Polly Angelakis holds a coconut given to her by a resident while standing at a gate in the Kipahulu District. She said the residents in the area have been very generous, offering them water and coconut milk.
Haleakala National Park photo
Haleakala National Park officials are asking visitors not to stop and get out of their cars at the gate at the summit district entrance. There is not much room to turn around and a steep cliff on one side of the road. Haleakala National Park at the summit and in Kipahulu are closed due to the federal government shutdown.
Haleakala National Park photo
A safety issue has arisen at the summit roadblock - visitors are stopping and getting out of their cars. This is disrupting the flow of vehicles attempting to turn around in an area with limited space and a sheer drop-off on one side.
There have been some close calls, said Angelakis.
"Please don't park . . . Keep moving," she said.
Angelakis said the word appears to be getting out about the park closures. And most of the people they have had to turn away have been understanding.
"Ninety-five percent of the visitors have been wonderful," she said, adding that for some this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the park. "We can't thank them enough for their graciousness."
"Hope they can come back someday," said Angelakis, who was at the Kipahulu district on Thursday.
Barriers have been placed at the trailheads in Kipahulu, and a "significant monitoring system" has been established for the pools. The closure is about safety, she said. With most of the park staff furloughed, there is insufficient manpower to aid distressed hikers or swimmers.
The ponds may look calm, but upstream there may be a heavy rain that could send down a torrent of water with little notice. There also is the possibility of rockfalls.
There have been a few who have breached the barriers, and park officials have talked to them about it, she said.
Area residents have been showing park officials "true aloha" by offering them water and coconut milk, Angelakis said.
At the summit, it's quiet without people.
"It feels wrong to be a national park without people," Angelakis said. "It's the people's park."
For now, though, "it's just the rangers and the nene."
* Lee Imada can be reached at email@example.com.