O'ahu groups ready to clean up beaches
By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer
By Eloise Aguiar
WAIMANALO — Spring cleaning is taking a new twist this year as scores of O'ahu residents focus on sprucing up beaches and parks rather than homes and backyards.
As relatively clear skies and trade winds help dry out soggy land, community groups, school classes and individuals are helping to clear tons of debris scattered on beaches and in parks during the recent six-week stretch of stormy weather.
In Waimanalo, volunteers have collected more than 300 coconuts. Plastics are being collected on Lanikai Beach and at Malaekahana State Park.
Students from St. Andrew's Priory and the University of Hawai'i-Manoa have helped cleanup efforts in Waimanalo.
A Castle High School biology class plans to clean the "Sherwood" area at Waimanalo Bay Recreation Area. Farrington High School students are slated to help out at Ala Moana Beach Park on Sunday. And Chaminade University students plan to clean Kalaeloa Camp at Barbers Point.
The results are cleaner beaches and parks and a safer ocean for marine life.
"It's a tremendous savings for the city," said Clint Jamile, cleanup coordinator for the city Department of Parks and Recreation. Some 6,500 people volunteered to clean city parks last year donating more than 21,000 work hours.
"We're very appreciative of people giving up their time, especially on weekends," he said.
In the wake of the recent storms, no cleanups are being done at beaches with warning signs about elevated bacteria levels.
"With the bacteria levels of the water, we're really concerned for the safety of our volunteers," Jamile said. "Right now, we will not go onto the beach and pick up any debris."
Dr. Sarah Park, of the state Department of Health, said people should treat sand like dirt, washing it off before eating and keeping it out of wounds. The sand will become cleaner over time as the sun and the tides reduce the bacteria count, said Park, deputy chief for the department's Disease Outbreak Control Division.
Traditionally, students assist with cleanups for reasons ranging from community service to fundraising. The storms that pounded the Islands and left messes everywhere motivated Castle High School students to pick a beach park project, said Sandy Linskey, a biology teacher. She noted that discussions in class centered on countering the effects of the weather with a meaningful cleanup effort.
Among student concerns is that beach litter could hurt animals and reefs, Linskey said. "They wanted to make sure it didn't end up in the ocean."
On Monday, the students will spend their lunch and classroom hours cleaning up at Sherwood's.
On Friday, members of the Waimanalo Ramp Fisherman Club plan to clear a drainage ditch near Kaiona Beach Park, said Haywood Kalima, club president.
The club has conducted cleanups over the last three weeks, Kalima said. Because the beach area is now improved, the group is turning its attention to the ditch and surrounding banks, which have become overgrown with grass and brush.
Volunteers from areas such as Waimanalo, Kahalu'u and Kaimuki are assisting in efforts to restore an area near the edge of the beach park that was used by families for picnics nine years ago. Kalima said the area was closed off to the public in an effort to stop four-wheeling on the beach.
"We're going to do our best to help the community," he said.
On Lanikai Beach, individuals are making a difference by carrying rubbish bags on daily strolls, said Bill Muench, a Kailua resident. About a half-dozen people do that regularly, Muench said.
At Malaekahana, Pam Lyda, of the Friends of Malaekahana, which operates the cabin camping for the state parks, said campers who have spotted her picking up trash have volunteered to help. The rains and weather have brought tons of litter from the ocean and the mountains, including fish nets, plastics, branches from trees and crates, she said.
"I've been amazed at the public's response to anything this park needs," Lyda said.
Reach Eloise Aguiar at email@example.com.