The issue of what comes next for the beleaguered residents of Leilani Estates continues to divide a community worried about the possibility of busloads of tourists pouring in to gawk at Kilauea Volcano’s most productive and famous outlet — Fissure 8.
The 60-foot-tall lava cone represents the new end of the road for Leilani Avenue. Property on either side of the narrow, county-owned road belongs to either private owners or the Leilani Community Association.
There is no public parking, no public restrooms and hardly room to turn around a busload of tourists where Leilani Avenue runs into the lava field, located 12 short blocks from Highway 130.
The Kilauea eruption that began May 3 opened 24 fissures and over two months covered more than 6,000 acres of land in Lower Puna with lava, destroying more than 700 homes in the Leilani Estates and Kapoho areas, and burying or isolating more than 1,600 acres of farms. Hawaii County officials have estimated the price tag for the recovery at upwards of $800 million.
Once molten lava is still emanating heat at Fissure 8 — which sprawls across 20 to 30 properties — and at the even bigger lava field, and the terrain is unforgiving.
Leilani Estates resident Pete Wilson points out Fissure 8 in Pahoa. Wilson is against tour buses coming into the subdivision.
“I think it’s inevitable that people will be sneaking in and it’s inevitable that one way or another people will be getting onto that lava field," Wilson said on whether it’s possible to keep non-residents out.
The Leilani Community Association’s insurer already has required the association to pay $24,000 to install metal guard rails and warning signs around the massive lava field.
The homeowners association is fighting to convince Mayor Harry Kim to maintain a checkpoint at the intersection of Highway 130 and Leilani Avenue, even though it has not been able to keep out visitors.
View of a road in Leilani Estates that leads to Fissure 8.