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Park Service analyzes Maui Haleakala sunrise reservations

FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2017, file photo, people gather ahead of the sunrise on the summit of Haleakala volcano in Haleakala National Park on Hawaii's island of Maui. The National Park Service is studying whether to keep its new system requiring reservations to drive up to Haleakala's summit to see the sunrise. The agency said Thursday, June 15 it will conduct an environmental assessment for the program, which was implemented on an emergency basis earlier this year to address overcrowding. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones, File)

HONOLULU (AP) — The National Park Service on Thursday said it would study whether to keep its new system requiring reservations to drive up to Haleakala’s summit to see the sunrise.

The agency plans to conduct an environmental assessment for the program, which was implemented on an emergency basis earlier this year to address overcrowding. The study will also analyze other possible solutions.

The agency said the pilot reservation system has dramatically reduced the crowds since it was introduced in February.

Sunrise viewing has long been popular at Haleakala, but overcrowding started becoming a problem about 15 years ago. It got much worse in recent years as more visitors posted photos of their sunrise viewing experiences on social media.

Under the new system, only those driving to the summit between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. need reservations, which cost $1.50 per car plus the $20 park entrance fee.

The agency has scheduled public meetings on Maui next week — in Pukalani on Wednesday and Wailuku on Thursday — to discuss the issue. It will accept comments from the public online from June 21 through July 21.

The area at and near the summit has 150 parking spaces. Before the reservation system took effect, more than 300 vehicles often crammed onto Haleakala at daybreak. Drivers who couldn’t find a spot would park on the side of the road or on the road itself, which blocked the way for emergency responders.

The Park Service said people would sometimes stray off paved areas and trample on seedlings and root systems of the Haleakala silversword, a rare, bush-like plant with thick leaves.

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