(BIVN) – As crowds flock to see the new eruption of Kīlauea volcano, the Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park has had to make some adjustments.
On Tuesday, park officials announced the closure of the HVNP backcountry for overnight use. From the National Park Service:
A surge in visitors eager to see a new eruption has prompted Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park to temporary close the backcountry to overnight use. The spike in visitation requires the full attention of staff to manage safe access to viewing areas at the summit of Kīlauea volcano.
The park will reopen overnight backcountry use once additional National Park Service staff are brought in to help manage the evolving eruption. All existing backcountry permits are canceled, and rainchecks will be issued. Day use of backcountry areas is still allowed, and the frontcountry Kulanaokuaiki Campground remains open on a first-come first-served basis.
“Safety is our first priority, and the unexpected increase in visitors limits our capacity to manage and respond to incidents in remote backcountry areas of the park. We are in the process of mobilizing additional staff from other parks in the region to assist us, and hope to reopen overnight backcountry use soon,” said Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park Superintendent Rhonda Loh.
The eruption began Sunday night and is currently contained within Halemaʻumaʻu Crater at the summit of Kīlauea volcano. Park rangers are managing large volumes of traffic and parking overflow day and night. Several thousand people gathered at Kīlauea Overlook throughout Monday night to watch lava deep within the crater illuminate towering plumes of gas and steam. Many visitors disregarded closure signs and post-and-cable barriers to get a closer look from the crater’s edge, putting themselves at great risk.
The COVID-19 pandemic adds to the complexity of ensuring safe viewing of the eruption. Despite the crowding at Kīlauea Overlook and other locations, many visitors were not wearing masks and were less than six feet from others.
Visitors are urged to stay informed, follow safety guidelines, avoid crowding, and mālama ʻāina (care for the land). Less crowded vantage points to view the new eruption include include Keanakākoʻi, Waldron Ledge and Volcano House.