Jan. 30 — Visitor “green fees” are already used on a limited basis at state parks — notably at the popular Diamond Head State Monument — but there is renewed interest in the state Legislature this session to expand the concept to include revenue to generate to protect Hawaii’s environment.
Visitor green fees are already being used to a limited extent at state parks – most notably at the popular Diamond Head State Monument – but there is renewed interest in the state Legislature in this session, the concept of generating revenue to protect Hawaii’s environment to expand.
The general idea is to collect tourist fees to offset their impact on state trails, state parks, and state beaches.
The fees aim to help combat coastal erosion, sea level rise and coral bleaching, repair damage to reefs, combat coral bleaching and replace invasive species with native ones.
The visitor fee concept was emphasized in the 2022 election campaign, with some candidates for various offices pointing out that visitor-only fees could also help limit tourism as arrival numbers continue to rise in a post-COVID-19 era.
Most of the eight House and Senate proposals would charge tourists over the age of 15 to purchase an annual “license” to use the state’s natural resources.
In his state of the state speech last week, Gov. Josh Green said he’s open to any ideas to offset the impact of tourism on Hawaii’s fragile ecosystem, which is home to the largest number of endangered species on earth.
“The revenue from visitor fees should bolster all of our efforts to protect the people of Hawaii and our way of life,” he said at the joint session of the House and Senate. “And we will continue to take the impact of climate change seriously. I support any plan, any plan that takes us to a place where resources come from the impact of travelers to protect our environment.”
After record rainfall that triggered catastrophic mudslides on Kauai’s North Shore in 2018, Haena State Park has been rebuilt with a new approach by the state to cap parking and collect entrance fees.
But the concept dates back to the city in the mid-1990s.
Then-Honolulu Councilman Mufi Hannemann authored legislation to require visitors to enter Hanauma Bay for a special maintenance and conservation fund entry — along with a mandatory instructional video so visitors can better appreciate the preserve, along with instructions on how to do it should behave.
Only visitors have to pay to enter Hanauma Bay.
“If you’re a local resident, it’s anathema to even think about charging you for using the beach,” Hannemann, now president and CEO of the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association, told the livestream program last week. Spotlight Hawaii” by the Honolulu Star Advertiser.
Hannemann said he told Green that any fees collected at state parks and trails should be dedicated to special funds dedicated to the upkeep and preservation of those specific locations — rather than the state’s general fund.
“We can support that,” said Hannemann. “We just don’t like it sneaking into the general treasury and being used for other purposes.”
The bills introduced in this session in the House and Senate pursue different approaches to expanding the practice of “green fees”,
“Conservation Fees” or “Impact Fees”.
Some require the purchase of a one-year license for tourists over the age of 15 wishing to use “a state park, beach, state-owned forest, trail on state-owned land, or other state-owned natural area.”
And several are calling for the creation of unpaid oversight commissions whose responsibilities include making grants to nonprofit groups and other organizations dedicated to protecting Hawaii’s environment or fighting climate change. House Bill 1162 contains similar provisions to other bills, including penalties and the creation of an oversight commission. But HB 1162 would lower the age limit to 15-year-old visitors, who would need to purchase a $50 annual “environmental license.” HB 1051 and its companion, Senate Bill 1349, would also require tourists as young as 15 to pay $50 for a one-year “license” online or through a mobile app. Visitors who do not purchase a license would face unspecified fines, which would not be enforced for the first five years after either bill went into effect.
The visitor fees would flow into a new “visitor green fee special fund”.
Like other bills, HB 1051 and SB 1349 would create an unpaid “environmental inheritance commission” that could disperse grants – so long as grants account for no more than 50% of annual fee income.
Both bills propose establishing the commission with $3 million from the state’s general fund. – SB 658 would charge tourists over the age of 15 $50 for a one-year license and calls for the creation of a “Visitor Green Fee Special Fund”. the fees, penalties, gratuities and gifts and donations to the program are to be deposited,” along with an Environmental Heritage Commission, which may also award grants.
It also calls for unspecified fines for violations, which would also not take effect in the first five years. – SB 304 would charge tourists over the age of 15 $50 for an annual “environmental license,” which could be purchased online, through an app, or through retailers and nonprofit groups.
The bill also provides for unspecified fines, which would also not be imposed until five years after the new fees came into effect.
A proposed “Environmental Legacy Commission” could also distribute grants from the fund. – SB 636 also proposes a $50 visitor fee for a year-long license, which the bill says could generate up to $400 million annually “to leave the future.” Generations with a healthy and safe environment.”
The fees would be paid into a Hawaii Environmental Legacy Special Fund.
SB 636 also calls for the establishment of an oversight committee that would also have the power to award grants. But a higher minimum of 50% of the revenue must be distributed. – HB 442 would also require the purchase of a license for each visitor over the age of 15 to be paid into a new ‘Visitor Green Fee Special Fund’.
Anyone caught without the proposed license faces unspecified fines. – HB 1237 requires the creation of a visitor fee mobile app in multiple languages, including but not limited to “Traditional and Simplified Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Tagalog.”