State looking to expand recreational revenue

Published On: Mar 23 2014 01:56:18 PM HST   Updated On: Mar 24 2014 06:05:03 AM HST

State parks are not only a place of natural beauty, they are also turning into an important source of funds for Hawaii.

Click here to watch Paul Drewes' story.

On most days - the Pali Lookout is a busy place as hundreds of visitors come to see the spectacular view of windward Oahu.

"You're not going to get a view like this. It's a stop we always make every time we come here," said Delaware resident Jerry Jay.

Tourists may view it as a place to see Hawaii's greenery, while the state sees the park as a way to make some green.

"We're in desperate need of operating money. We need money for the water bill, the electric bill, for fuel - and for fixing the trucks. So the money from parking or entrance fees helps subsidize our operating costs, big time," said Curt Cottrell, with the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The Nuuanu Pali Wayside is one of six parks where the DLNR charges those fees to commercial tour companies and visitors.

"We were looking at where can we generate income with minimal impact to residents, but also tie it into the visitor industry. Because we know the visitor industry has some of the greatest impacts to our state parks," said Cottrell.

The revenue has added up.
Last year, parking at the Pali Lookout brought in more than $350,000 to the state. Fees from Iao Valley on Maui, along with Hapuna Beach and Akaka Falls on the Big Island, helped bring the total to more than $1.1 million.

The state's top revenue generating park Diamond Head brought in $1.2 million in 2013.

The additional revenue isn't earmarked to improve the state's most popular parks. Instead - it is spent on maintenance at all recreation areas.

Cottrell added that while there haven't been any physical improvements at the Nuuanu Wayside Park, having a parking attendant in the lot has improved safety.

"We did checks with HPD, and the vandalism and break-ins dropped significantly once we had an attendant on site," stated Cottrell.

"The parking fee is the best $3 I could spend. It was most definitely worth it," said Jay.

Even with millions in revenue, Cottrell said the parks department needs more. Twenty percent of ceded land revenue must go to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

In the past two decades, general funds for parks have been cut in half.

So, in addition to productive parks, the state is already looking at other ways to make money.
"We're like a family looking for coins under the couch. We're now looking at a three-year lease at Diamond Head for a small gift shop," stated Cottrell.

The next park to see fees could be Makena Beach Park, but the state is first looking into whether part-time residents would be exempt.
The land board also approved collection of fees for Haena and Kokee state parks, but a master plan has to be worked out before fees are charged.


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