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Mauna Kea officials grapple with increased visitor traffic

    People can be seen playing in the snow at the summit of Mauna Kea near the UH Hilo Telescope.

HILO >> Mauna Kea officials are discussing ways to manage increased visitor traffic.

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports about 100,000 more people visited last year than in 2010 and University of Hawaii spokesman Dan Meisenzahl says it’s probably due to improved access.

Meisenzahl said completed improvements on Saddle Road are one example.

"You couldn’t take your rental car there before," Meisenzahl said.

The Office of Mauna Kea Management is hosting open houses this week on its administrative rules process. Managing public access will be part of discussions.

Meisenzahl said commercial permits are not being issued until the rules process is finished. About 14 businesses are currently licensed.

Mauna Kea support services plans to spend almost $528,000 in the coming fiscal year on road maintenance and costs at the visitor center.

The 13 telescopes currently located on the mountain pay for 82 percent of road maintenance costs, and the management office at Mauna Kea contributes the rest at over $95,000.

The paused Thirty Meter Telescope project has been contributing to road area improvements since October, and plans to contribute over $85,000 in the coming fiscal year.

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