The Ranger Reports

In the lead up to the BLNR meeting the Office of Mauna Kea management released some of the ranger’s and MKVIS staff reports. These document the day to day happenings at the MKVIS and the summit over the last three months since the protests began.

Mauna Kea Protest
Protests on Mauna Kea, June 24, 2015. Photo by Dan Birchall, used with permission.
I knew it to be bad, I had heard about a number of the specific events detailed in these reports. I really did not have a full picture of the occurances, something that these reports make very clear.

Read for yourself… MKSS Rangers and Staff Logs

The reports detail repeated vandalism, some petty thefts, continued harassment of staff and visitors, and repeated and illegal blocking of the road.

Many have declared these reports to be outright lies, claiming that these things never happened. I know better. I know the people who wrote these reports personally. I have breakfast with them routinely in the Hale Pohaku dining room and have listened to them relate these same occurrences. Often the words they used were a little less diplomatic than these written formal reports, the product of frustration and anger. Everything in these reports rings true, down to specific events that were described to me first hand.

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An End to Observing at the MKVIS?

As we are all aware, the TMT protests are having direct consequences for everyone who goes to the mountain. Regular mountain users and tourists alike are dealing these consequences. The summit road closed to the public for a second week, the MKVIS also closed, even before these closures the protests had curtailed many activities.

Mauna Kea Observing
My 18″ telescope Deep violet set up under the stars at the MKVIS.
It looks to get worse.

An agenda item that will appear before this week’s DLNR board meeting contains significant rule changes regarding use of the lands surrounding the Mauna Kea access road. For the local amateur astronomy community this looks to be very serious, a complete closure of a place we have all come to value very highly.

Go the the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station on the weekends nearest new Moon and you will find telescopes. While the MKVIS telescopes get put away at 10pm there are ‘scopes that are operating late into the night, often still there when dawn colors the sky. These telescopes belong to local amateur astronomers who bring them here to enjoy perfect Mauna Kea skies.

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Guardrails on Mauna Kea

Guardrails? What is the problem? It is only a few hundred feet to the switchback below. As if taking all of the fun out of Saddle Road is not enough.

Mauna Kea Guardrails
New guardrails added to the summit road on Mauna Kea
I suppose the addition is not such a bad idea, the road is a little safer.

Mauna Kea Support Services is overseeing the addition of guardrails on quite a few of the more dangerous places on the summit road. This includes the lower side of each of the hairpin turns for the switchbacks. Notable curves are getting the same treatment.

The new rail locations include the spot where a red jeep went off the road a few years ago, killing the driver and a passenger.

MKSS had made a number of safety improvements to the mountain facilities over the last few months, part of a concerted effort. New speed bumps at the visitor center, guardrails, and plans for new signage along the road.

Visitor and observatory traffic on the mountain is increasing, so is the attention from state officials. With the new comprehensive management plan in place, and groundbreaking for TMT not far off, now is a good time for it.