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Big Island neighborhood weighs crowd control near lava field

November 2, 2018

HONOLULU (AP) — Residents of a Big Island neighborhood where lava flowed during the Kilauea volcano eruption are debating how to control a potential flood of tourists wanting to see the aftermath.

The eruption that began in May created fissure 8, a 60-foot (18-meter) lava cone that now marks the end of Leilani Estates’ main thoroughfare, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Thursday.

Tourists could arrive in large numbers to see the fissure and massive lava field, said Jay Turkovsky, president of the Leilani Community Association. The area is dangerous because the terrain is unforgiving and the lava is still hot at the fissure, he said.

The association has paid $24,000 to install metal guardrails and warning signs around the lava field, Turkovsky said.

“It’s for our own liability protection,” he said. “We know that lots of people want to come here because it’s currently happening — but not on a mass scale yet.”

The neighborhood lacks public parking and restrooms and room for tour buses. The neighborhood is working to persuade Big Island Mayor Harry Kim to maintain a security checkpoint at the neighborhood’s entrance, though it has not kept all visitors out.

“If we were to limit access, then we can control the masses,” Turkovsky said. “We could require a donation at the gate and permit some tour companies to come in. The tour companies would be running the business and would have all of the liability.”

Other residents are divided on the matter, with some already escorting in tourists, friends and family.

Resident Pete Wilson said some in the neighborhood want to allow visitors, arguing that “tourists have every right to go where they want.”

“The only thing driving this is the fact that we have an attractive nuisance in our backyard,” Wilson said. “Lookie-loos, tourists, whoever want to be on the lava.”

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Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com

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