NOTE: The above video was produced by the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources and is being shared here without alteration, except for an altered opening shot and closing graphic.
(BIVN) – With the current lull in the eruption of Kīlauea Volcano, state and county agencies are looking at recovering some of Puna’s treasured recreational areas. That includes Pohoiki, the district’s only boat ramp, and MacKenzie State Recreation Area.
The Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources recently produced a video update on both locations:
A damage assessment of the formerly popular Pohoiki boat ramp area along the lower Puna coast shows no damage to the ramp itself. However, an estimated 14,000 cubic yards of black sand deposited during the recent East Rift zone eruption completely rings and blocks the entrance to the small boat ramp. That’s one football field, with sand stacked 6 and a half feet high.
Finn McCall, an engineer with the DLNR Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation and DOBOR’s Hawaii Island branch manager Stephen Schmelz flew to Pohoiki late last week to get a close-up look at what Kilauea wrought.
Schmelz says “we were here during the eruptive activity in mid-July and fully expected the ramp to be taken within a matter of days. Amazingly, while lava crept to the edge of the neighboring Isaac Hale Beach Park, took the county’s lifeguard stand, and surrounded the boat ramp off shore, it’s still here.”
Prior to the latest eruption, 4 companies with DOBOR commercial permits operated lava ocean tours from the ramp. The tiny bay leading up to the ramp was also a popular swimming spot, an ocean entrance for surfers and other water enthusiasts.
McCall took measurements on the newly formed crescent-shaped black sand beach and in the new pool created by the encirclement. He explains, “we have a lot more analysis to do but it appears based on our initial assessment that we could actually remove the black sand and recreate the entrance to the boat ramp.”
The reopening of the Pohoiki boat ramp would be dependent on road access being restored, support from the local community, the securing of necessary permits, and most importantly funding. Hawaii Island mayor Harry Kim says “DOBOR is now working closely with the County of Hawaii on their plans regarding the road and the beach park. The county looks forward to working with the state on the development of this area.”
There are no estimates now of how much it would cost, or a time frame for potential work to begin. McCall and Schmelz flew the entire lower Puna coastline, looking for other possible small boat ramp sites, in case Pohoiki can’t be resurrected. They believe there may be a couple of options, but like at Pohoiki, a new ramp would require support from the community, permits, road access and millions of dollars of funding for design and construction.
At MacKenzie State Recreation Area, people are taken in by two, new, sparkling black sand beaches. Prior to the eruption, the park’s coastline was punctuated by steep, rocky cliffs that drop precipitously and directly into the ocean. The larger of the pair of beaches is directly below the parking lot and still requires careful navigation down the cliff face.
The beauty of the shimmering black sand beaches is under-laid with danger.
“The danger is probably the undertow,” said Kyle Takeya with DLNR Division of State Parks. “If you get stuck in that it’s just gonna suck you straight under the water instead of out. Just gotta be aware of the undertow and the strong currents that’s associated just outside of the waves.” He reports there are now a total of seven black sand beaches created by Kilauea between MacKenzie and Pohoiki.
From the northern boundary of MacKenzie State Recreation Area, it’s just a few minute walk to the edge of the newly formed lava flow which remains within a restricted access zone.
On the first day of the reopening of MacKenzie, a National Guardsman walked out to the edge of the lava flow and spoke to numerous visitors about the risks and hazards associated with the newly altered landscape. In addition to the extremely sharp lava which creates unstable footing, there are pockets where the ground may look stable, but it’s not.
DLNR Division of State Parks Administrator Curt Cottrell says “we’re very pleased to now reopen Mackenzie. It is critically important to enable shoreline access for our local community. As always we ask that people demonstrate responsible behavior and use judgment and common sense when venturing into any areas impacted by the lower East Rift Zone eruption, and avoid promoting excursions on social media as this only increases the appetite for others, often less skilled, to follow.”