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Kauai considers charging tourists to park at crowded beaches

June 28, 2021 GMT

LIHUE, Hawaii (AP) — Officials want to study parking lots at crowded beach parks on the Hawaiian island of Kauai and explore the possibility of imposing fees on tourists’ vehicles.

Kauai has allocated $30,000 of the county’s federal coronavirus relief money to study parking at Poipu, Lydgate and Hanalei’s Black Pot beach parks, The Garden Island reported Monday.

“We all know the impacts our parks are facing with the surge of tourism,” Kauai Managing Director Michael Dahilig said. “This study will look at ways to better manage the parking situation of tourist vehicles while making it easier for residents to find parking at more popular destinations.”

The measure that directs the Department of Parks and Recreation to conduct the study was in the works before the COVID-19 pandemic, when Kauai was feeling the strain of too many tourists, Councilmember Luke Evslin said.

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When officials imposed travel restrictions to try to protect Hawaii against the spread of the virus, there were days when fewer than 100 people entered Kauai County.

Now that restrictions are easing, more than 32,000 people flew into the state one day last week, with over 2,500 going to Kauai, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

“As we can see with the rapid return to basically pre-COVID visitor numbers, the pandemic did not change the fundamental fact that we need to better manage our tourism industry,” Evslin said.

The ordinance allows the parks department to impose parking fees on visitors and directs it to conduct a study to determine those rates. The department will be facilitating the study but would need council approval to enact such a program.

Violating the parking fees would come with a $100 fine for the first offense. More than two offenses would mean a fine of up to $500.

“The county has very few direct mechanisms to capture tourist revenue or reduce the industry’s impact on our infrastructure and natural resources, and parking fees at beach parks can be one of our tools,” Evslin said. “The intent is both to raise revenue for the park and help reduce overall visitor numbers at some of our most-crowded beach parks.”