Ed. note: I’ve just updated this article with a working link to the Park Service’s plan for the Chain of Craters emergency access road. –AM
The social media has been buzzing with various reports about who Hawaii Volcanoes National Park will allow to travel in and out of the land below the Pele Partition, if and when that should happen, via the Chain of Craters emergency road. We contacted the park to get the latest information on what is still an evolving policy.
According to Rainey McKenna, who’s filling in for Jessica Ferracane as the park’s information officer,
The emergency access route, as well as connecting park roads, will be available for use by Puna area residents affected by the lava flow, their invitees and agents, and the transportation of goods and services needed to sustain the community including vendors, contractors, and service providers. Puna area residents will be able to obtain a free window decal to help expedite travel through the park’s entrance gate. Regular visitors to the park will continue to be charged an entrance fee, however those entities who are using park roads for the purpose of accessing lower Puna will not be charged an entrance fee.
We asked McKenna how the park would determine which “entities” were “using park roads for the purpose of accessing lower Puna.” McKenna replied that the park is” currently working on figuring out how best to provide access to ‘other entities’ traveling to lower Puna,” but he added, “At this point, other than for the resident decals, we are not anticipating asking for documentation from “other entities.”
Regular park visitors would still have to pay standard park admission fees, though it’s not exactly clear how the Park would tell the difference between park visitors and those headed to Puna.
The park IS seeking input on the emergency road plan at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/document.cfm?parkID=307&projectID=55067&documentID=62314, although that site was down when we tried it this afternoon. When it gets back up, click on “Emergency Access Route along the Lava-Covered Section of Chain of Craters Kalapana Road,” “Document List” to review and comment on the plan.
McKenna said plans currently call for the road to be finished with a “two lane aggregate” surface–in other words, gravel, not blacktop.