(BIVN) – The recurring eruption at the summit of Kilauea Volcano continues, as another pause in lava effusion began Friday morning. Prior to the hiatus, lava was overflowing from the western vent in Halemaʻumaʻu and filling the lava lake that occupies the western portion of the crater.
The current eruption began in September 2021. It is the second eruption to occur at the summit since it collapsed less than four years ago, and appears to be part of the larger geological cycle of the caldera, observed over several decades.
National Park Service video shows the summit at the start of the collapse sequence, in May 2018. The volcanic ash cloud was created by rocks and debris falling into the receding lava lake, two days before the closure from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park for 134 hours. days. As lava flowed from the summit, it erupted miles away on the lower East Rift Zone, inundating several neighborhoods in the Puna district.
Inside the national park, seismic activity from the summit collapse had a significant impact on buildings in the immediate vicinity of Uēkahuna Bluff, including the Jaggar Museum and the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory facilities. The gazebo area has since been closed.
Post-disaster assessments revealed that significant investment would be required to make the overhanging buildings safe to occupy and operational. They are surrounded by fault lines and officials say the area continues to sag on the crater side, compromising the stability of slopes on existing terraces and building foundations.
This week, the National Park Service unveiled its proposal to repair and/or replace critical park infrastructure. We’ll take a closer look at the different components of the stimulus package, but first an overview.
As part of the proposed action, the National Park Service would demolish damaged structures at Uēkahuna Bluff and restore access to the existing overhang area next to the old Jaggar Museum. The museum’s Visitor Center function would be replaced with a new building near the existing Kīlauea Visitor Center at the entrance to the park. The proposal would realign Crater Rim Drive near the park entrance and install a roundabout to improve safety. And, the plan will allow the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory to build a replacement field station adjacent to the ball field near Kilauea Army Camp in the park.
Here is an overview of the changes we will see, starting from the entrance to the park.
The National Park Service provided a video simulation, showing an aerial overview of the project area, as it travels along Crater Rim Drive from Highway 11, past the entrance cabins , to the proposed roundabout.
Park officials say the roundabout is needed due to increased visitation over the past decade, as well as changes in traffic flow from past eruptions that have led to traffic congestion issues.
As we head to the top, we pass the Kilauea Visitor Center, where a new visitor center building will be constructed which officials say will be compatible with the surrounding historic landscape.
Visitor parking will be expanded and the proposal will provide covered outdoor space for wayfinding, exhibits and gathering space. Officials say they will seek to minimize impacts to site resources as much as possible.
Renderings depict the new Visitor Center building, which will replace the lost Jaggar Museum. It will be located next to the existing head office. The existing building currently serves as the park’s headquarters, and part of the building is also used for a bookstore, visitor center, and auditorium. During construction of the new Visitor Center, the existing building would continue to serve as the park’s headquarters.
Beyond the Visitor Center, at Kilauea Army Camp, a new building would house USGS research facilities. Officials say the new building would be nestled among an existing grove of trees, between the military camp and an open grass area, which includes a historic ball diamond that becomes an overflow parking lot during peak traffic.
Finally, we arrive at the Uēkahuna Bluff lookout and the site of the old Jaggar Museum, which will be demolished along with the other damaged facilities.
The National Park Service says it will incorporate a historical reference to the museum, with the building’s footprint delineated on the ground plan with stone salvaged from the building.
Officials plan to retain and repair the overhang wall and expand the overhang area within the Jaggar Museum footprint. Large benches will serve as both seating and overhead viewing opportunities, and will incorporate stones salvaged from the Jaggar Museum. Barriers of poles and cables will delimit the limits of the overhang zone.
The National Park Service invites the public to review project details online, attend a virtual meeting Feb. 24, and submit comments by March 9. A link to the project website is here.