(BIVN) – A proposal for a lava viewing area in the Noni Farms area of Puna – one of many apparently on the desk of Hawai‘i County officials for their approval – was shown recently to Big Island Video News.
We were guided to the location, which is on private agricultural lands off Cinder Road and where the mid-section of the Fissure 8 channel carries lava rushing towards the ocean downslope. We later spoke to Jason Twillman, one of the area residents who shares a vision for the spot.
Twillman said safety and security are the top priority, and he wants to work with established tour companies to bring in the visitors. “They bring ’em up,” Twillman said, “they drop ’em off, they give ’em a tour, they come up into our cabin, they view (the lava) with telescopes.”
“We are designing this to bring in locals, for free, to see this,” Twillman said, hoping the idea can help with “the healing process” for those impacted by Kilauea’s eruption on the lower East Rift Zone.
Twillman is not the only one with a plan. There are proposals for other viewing areas around Puna, drawn up by various different community members.
We interviewed to Twillman on the night of the public meeting in Pahoa. During that meeting, Research & Development director Diane Ley reported to the crowd that the county is working on establishing a viewing area, but a decision has not been made.
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Those proposing the Noni Farms viewing area are losing patience. They issued a media release on Friday, saying that county officials are suppressing viewing station proposals as “Pahoa’s economy suffocates”.
From the media release:
On July 16, Mayor Harry Kim said it could be a matter of days before they opened up a public lava viewing station. He suggested that they have up to 6 places they were considering. 11 days later and Diane Ley from the Department of Research and Development for the County of Hawai’i is saying we are not even close.
I, like several others, have submitted a proposal for a viewing station that would not only generate income for those of us who have lost everything, but it would also honor locals in their grieving process by allowing them viewing access. As local businesses in Pahoa claim 50-80% decreases in business, these proposals would bring in hundreds, if not thousands, of tourists to our town every day. Vacation rentals would fill back up. Restaurants would thrive again. Boutiques, bars and shops could recoup their losses. But County continues to keep us on hold under the guise that they have our best interests in mind. Lower Puna won’t survive this state of limbo much longer. We are suffocating. Let us regain control of our breath.
It’s becoming clear that this isn’t about safety. It’s about control. Control of power and money.
When following up with Diane, she stated that County was reviewing our proposal this week. Only to follow up the next day saying, “as the County’s proposed lava viewing program remains in the discussion stage and no final decisions have been made, it is best that I not share specifics as parameters may change.” What this tells me is that they are not considering our proposal. In fact, since proposing our plan Civil Defense has restricted access to our neighborhood and no longer allows us to bring in guest vehicles. They did so without posting any public updates. Local fruit stands are no longer accessible to neighbors. Contractors and guests are majorly inconvenienced by having to go to Hilo just to get a placard to gain access. Meanwhile, DLNR is enforcing laws that they can not even source and shaming citizens and bragging about how many citations they’ve given to lava viewers via their social media page. Why don’t you tell us how many looters you have arrested? How many honu have you saved? How many of your own guests have you brought in to illegally view the lava at the Kapoho cinder butte? The people you are targeting are the one’s who have been reporting updates in real time, keeping our community and the world up to date, while Civil Defense reports come in hours to days late. We the people see your shortcomings and are proposing solutions. Why do you refuse to listen?
Yesterday we found out that Jack’s Tour Company is going out of business after 50 years of operation. How many more businesses must diminish or die before we are allowed to invite tourism back into our economy?
The flow has stabilized to a point that we can set up webcams and monitors and be confident that any outbreaks will be reported in time to prevent any potential tragedy. We can start to invite residents and tourists to safe viewing sites. We can begin to look forward and consider how we are going to rebuild our lives and our community.