Honolulu Star-Advertiser

Friday, July 12, 2024 86° Today's Paper


Hawaii News

Hawaii island’s only zoo to begin charging admission in 2025

KELSEY WALLING / HAWAII TRIBUNE-HERALD
                                The Pana‘ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens sees an increase in visitors every summer as more families bring keiki after the end of the school year. A family watches an emu as it eats an afternoon meal at the zoo.
1/1
Swipe or click to see more

KELSEY WALLING / HAWAII TRIBUNE-HERALD

The Pana‘ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens sees an increase in visitors every summer as more families bring keiki after the end of the school year. A family watches an emu as it eats an afternoon meal at the zoo.

Hawaii County plans to begin charging for admission to the Pana‘ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens next year.

Hawaii island’s only zoo opened in the Pana‘ewa Recreational Complex in 1978 and has been consistently funded by the county and private donations.

The county Parks and Recreation Department operates the zoo and has for years been discussing the implementation of admission fees to help support and fund the zoo, according to Hawaii County Parks and Recreation Director Maurice Messina.

“This is something we’ve been working on with (Mayor Mitch Roth) and his team and the County Council for a few years, and we’re happy it’s finally coming to fruition,” Messina said. “Part of the reason for an admission fee is the ability to create a more robust experience at the zoo, but our goal is to keep all resident fees as minimal as possible.”

Messina said the proposed admission fees for kamaaina are $1 for keiki and $4 for adults. For nonresidents, the proposed fees are $5 for keiki and $12 for adults.

“Since I’ve been on staff, many people have told me how surprised they are that the zoo is free, and people frequently donate to us when they visit,” said Zoo Administrator Mindy Runnells. “More funding will help us hire more staff, bring in more exhibits and offer more programs, which will all grow the zoo.”

Over the years, Friends of the Pana‘ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens, or FOZ, has grown into a close-knit team who have worked to raise funds for animal enrichment, weekly programs and special events that the county’s budget could not accommodate.

Volunteers will continue to raise money through the zoo’s gift shop, stroller rentals and annual fundraisers that will go toward upgrading animal habitats, maintaining the petting zoo, and caring for the zoo grounds and botanical garden.

“We’re very lucky to have such a committed Friends of the Zoo community partner, and we’re looking to supplement their efforts with this fee and enhance the zoo experience,” Messina said. “We’re already looking to improve some components of the playground, provide more programs for zoo visitors, and create interpretive signage with QR codes that provide more information on each animal.”

According to Messina, there are considerations for admission discounts for seniors, active duty military and people with disabilities, as well as special deals for families, school trips and youth programs.

After finalizing the proposal as a rule amendment, Parks and Recreation will hold a public hearing and give residents the opportunity to weigh in on the rule change and admission charge. Staff are working to complete the public hearing notices as soon as possible, according to Messina.

Admission to the Pana‘ewa Rainforest Zoo and Gardens will remain free until Jan. 2.

———

For more information visit hilozoo.org.

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Terms of Service. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. Report comments if you believe they do not follow our guidelines. Having trouble with comments? Learn more here.