HANAPEPE — Some members of the Westside Watershed Council and concerned citizens say a Westside beach park that’s sacred to them is being neglected and they are calling for immediate repairs.
A letter to Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. dated July 9 along with a petition signed by over 100 residents and photos of the Salt Pond Park states that those who frequent the park have tried to bring attention to the issue through multiple platforms for many years, but their concerns have been ignored.
“The Salt Pond Park that hundreds of people use is a disgrace and it has been so for many years and your government is unwilling or unable to fix the problems,” the letter states. “
Timothy Oga of Hanapepe, who is listed as the contact person on the letter, said Monday the restrooms and the showers at the park have been neglected for about a year. He said the park is heavily used and there’s only one working bathroom and some portable bathrooms.
He said there are other problems. Photos attached with the petition show faded paint on picnic tables, dirty walls and debris.
“A lot of people go down there and they have to walk to the other bathroom they don’t want to use the portable toilets because they’re all messed up, they have to walk from the one end to the other end just to use the restroom,” he said.
Rhoda Libre, executive director of the Westside Watershed, agreed.
“The bathrooms have been in disrepair for a long time. They’ve had sewage spills that have impacted the integrity of the soil and the sand is compromised. People have gotten sick from that it seems the county hasn’t done their due diligence in 10 to 12 years,” she said.
The Westside Watershed Council has been complaining about the problem for years, she said. The group was working on gaining a stewardship with the county but in November, they were denied their request, Libre said.
“It’s a healing area, but they managed to kill all the healing herbs. The salt itself is dirty, everything is dirty, it all stems from the park,” she said.
Parks and Recreation Director Lenny Rapozo said the county is planning improvements to begin within the next year, but due to the area it’s going to take some time to obtain the proper permits. Those improvements include improving the wastewater system, renovating the comfort station fixtures and painting.
During heavy rains earlier this year, Rapozo said the leach field at the western end comfort station was saturated, which is why the county closed that pavilion.
The process to certify the shoreline takes about one year and drawings will need to be completed for the work to be done, he said.
In the meantime, the Department of Parks and Recreation is continuing to check the condition of the leach field. Because of this, the comfort station cannot be opened.
“Public Works is currently working on bringing in a pipe that would take all the effluent water from Salt Pond Park to a sewer plant in Eleele,” he said.
“This is the long-term solution for this facility. The big opening was done and the bids received were higher than anticipated. A money bill has been drafted by the Department of Public Works and sent to Council for an additional $525,000 to complete the project,” he said.
The Westside Watershed has been fighting this for a long time, Libre said.
“It’s a typical power struggle again and that’s the reason for it and for them to solve the problem, they’re trying to use politics,” she said.
In the letter, the county is accused of trying to make the area less attractive for visitors, “because if more of them come more may mingle with us the local people and they may find out the truth about the Hawaiians and about how things are going on here on Kauai.”
The petition states they are “protesting this intentional segregation of local people from the visitors.”
It goes on to say since their protests have been ignored, “we are taking things into our own hand. This means that we will create a welcome board plus posters with a copy of this letter and the attached pictures, plus with the picture and phone number of the Director of Parks and Recreation on it to let the visitors know the truth about the neglected condition of our park.”
The Kanaka Maoli want to exercise their rights to take care of their traditional lands.
The situation at the Salt Ponds is alarming, she said.
“We’re continuing to fight,” Libre said.
Bethany Freudenthal, Courts, Crime and County reporter, 652-7891, firstname.lastname@example.org