State imposes $1 fee for visitors to climb Diamond Head trail

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HONOLULU -- The state Department of Land and Natural Resources, which oversees Diamond Head State Monument, implemented a $1 fee May 1 for visitors who want to climb to the 760-foot summit.

Paying the fee is on the honor system -- a collection box was installed at the bottom of the one-and-a-half-mile trail.

Visitors who want to walk to the top of Diamond Head will now have to put money in a collection box at the base of the trail. There still is no charge for visitors who simply come inside the crater to have a look around but not climb the trail.

The state previously said it would construct a toll booth outside the crater and charge all who enter, starting Jan. 1.

That plan is still on the table, but it now looks like next year before that will happen, according to state parks administrator Ralston Nagata.

"We are still planning to [charge everyone who enters the crater], but it's taking a while to do that, so now we will have a collection box at the bottom of the trail," said Nagata.

Tour operators such as Polynesian Adventure Tours and E Noa Tours -- who together bring approximately 50,000 visitors inside the crater on tour buses for a brief look -- have said they will eliminate Diamond Head from their itineraries once the state starts charging to enter the crater.

For now, however, the monument is still on their itineraries.

The fact that the state has changed its plans and is now charging just for those who climb the trail was not in response to tour operators' concerns, said Nagata.

"It's not a compromise; the land board has already told us to go ahead and start charging," said Nagata.

About 1 million visitors come to Diamond Head each year.

The state hopes to raise between $300,000 and $600,000 a year from the fees, after administrative costs are deducted.

That money will go into the state park budget, and much of it will go back into improvements for Diamond Head, said Nagata.

"The Diamond Head State Monument entrance fee is necessary to help protect, make improvements and maintain Hawaii's most recognized and photographed landmark, as well as other state parks," Nagata said in a statement.

Last year the state opened a visitor information booth at the bottom of the trail with a part-time volunteer inside to answer questions.

It also installed interpretive exhibits about the crater and made improvements to the walkway leading to the trail.

A new master plan for Diamond Head that was approved by the state calls for new trails, a 20,000-square-foot visitor center and a parking lot outside the crater with a shuttle bringing visitors inside.

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