- Associated Press - Friday, June 26, 2015

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii (AP) - The Office of Mauna Kea Management is preparing to issue a set of rules that will for the first time give the office legal control over public and commercial access on the mountain.

The office is asking the public to consider the new rules and the governor to sign off on the new provisions after at least a year of process, reported West Hawaii Today (http://bit.ly/1NhN2Er).

Under the new rules, four-wheel drive vehicles would be required for trips to the summit, vehicles would have to be cleared of invasive species, large groups would be required to have a permit and proper equipment would be required for snow recreation.

Commercial tour operators who take visitors to the peak will also have to reapply for their permits, and rangers will crack down on illegal tours. Fees for access and parking may be changed in the future.

Officials with the office said the new provisions have not been designed to curtail public or Native Hawaiian access but to create a safe environment for all users while protecting cultural and natural resources.

Contested case proceedings regarding the Thirty Meter Telescope have put the rulemaking process on hold for years. But now the office is moving along with making the rules into law, said the office’s director Stephanie Nagata.

The office is hosting open houses this week in an effort to gather public input on the rules.

Once draft rules are created, public meetings and testimony will be held before final rules go to the governor, Nagata said.

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Information from: West Hawaii Today, http://www.westhawaiitoday.com

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