Oahu’s ‘wild west’ garbage piles gone
By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer
Something of a historic moment may have occurred at 9:01 a.m. Friday when John Tabangcura with the Parks and Recreations Department pulled his city refuse truck up to a hardscrabble homeless area variously known as "the wild west" on the Wai'anae Coast and began loading piles of rubbish off state-owned Farrington Highway.
Tabangcura got a grassroots assist from volunteers with Wai'anae Community Outreach, several homeless residents of the milelong bush area next to the highway, and Henkels & McCoy, a private utility contractor. Todd Liddy, who owns a marine supply firm, brought in a low trailer with a ramp capable of accommodating the removal of bulky items too big to fit in the refuse truck.
For months, city and state officials have wrestled with the issue of who's responsible for the cleanup of tons of garbage from an unimproved and illegally occupied stretch of city wilderness that ends up on state highway land. The city, which is in the refuse collecting business, doesn't collect garbage on state property or unimproved land of its own. The state, which is not in the refuse business, says the garbage from the bush is the city's, but adds that it wants to work with the city to find a solution.
While both sides try to hammer out an answer, the details were momentarily overlooked Friday as something actually happened to make things better. Even as Tabangcura and helpers were cleaning up the highway, crews and heavy equipment were loading tons of trash that had accumulated at Kea'au Beach Park next to the bushes.
Just before 7 a.m., a city parks crew of five with a dump truck arrived at the park only to find a Henkels & McCoy crew of 10 already at work. Henkels & McCoy had brought in two backhoes, two dump trucks and a flatbed truck. In no time both crews were working in unison to clear out trash, clutter and hundreds of tires stacked along a park access road.
"It goes fast when you've got the right equipment," said Miles Kamana, parks grounds maintenance supervisor for the city Department of Parks and Recreation.
Keola Rosario, a project manager for Henkels & McCoy, said when he learned that the company's area manager, Mike Alvarez, had arranged to donate company personnel and equipment for the park and highway cleanup, he immediately wanted to be part of it.
"I definitely volunteered," Rosario said. "I was born and raised in Wai'anae, so we were going to clean up my home, basically. I know all this isn't just coming from the homeless. People come in from different parts of the island to dump their trash. So, we all need to pick up, clean up and lend a helping hand."
The park trash was part of a grassroots cleanup effort on Feb. 13 when some 200 volunteers cleared so much garbage from the roadside by the bushes that it overwhelmed 700 trash bags and two 20-foot containers brought in for the occasion. With no place else to put the overflow of debris, the volunteers stacked the excess beside a park access road. The park's limited cleanup crew was no match for the wall of rubbish it encountered.
So, the wall remained intact until Tuesday, when more than 50 volunteers representing several area service agencies and one intermediate school put a dent in the pile. On Thursday, volunteers and equipment from Foster Realty, along with crews from the city and state, cleared more rubbish from the park and along the highway.
Then came Friday's crews, volunteers and heavy equipment , and by 9:30 a.m. both the park and highway were trash-free.