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Haleakala National Park plan moves forward

- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 29, 2014

WAILUKU, Hawaii (AP) - Haleakala National Park is implementing a plan to cut back on the number of commercial visitors that aims to ensure preservation of the resources at the park, Maui's most popular attraction.

The plan also seeks to ensure high-quality experiences in the next 10 to 15 years, the Maui News (http://is.gd/WFwjCX) reported Wednesday.

The plan was one of four options under consideration.

Under the plan, commercial bicycle tours will continue to be prohibited. Other offerings, including horseback riding and astronomy tours, will be limited. So will road-based tours. Motor coaches will be prohibited and no new commercial services will be provided.

The National Park Service last month made a finding of no significant impact for the plan and accompanying environmental assessment.

Competitive processes for service providers will be developed over the next year for horseback, astronomy, hiking and road-based offerings.

"The resulting crowding and congestion have contributed to adverse impacts to visitor experience into the park's natural and cultural resources," a 2012 draft plan states. "Crowding and inappropriate behavior have contributed to a loss of 'sense of place,' which is often the initial reason visitors come to the park, interference with traditional cultural uses, and increased negative perceptions of the park by Native Hawaiians..."

Under the plan, commercial tours will be prohibited at the park as many as five days out of the year. That rule would allow opportunities for Native Hawaiians to conduct cultural practices without interruption from commercial enterprises.

Also, contracts will be authorized on an annual or biennial basis for horseback riding, hiking and astronomy tours.

Maui County economic development coordinator Teena Rasmussen said her office has not yet reviewed the plan. She said, "our stance is we really want to see Haleakala National Park open to as many people as possible."

Rasmussen said her office will gauge business community concerns as the plan is reviewed.

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Information from: The Maui News, http://www.mauinews.com

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