Let the building begin

Kamalani Kai bridge can still use more help

While Kamalani Kai bridge-building volunteer organizers acknowledge “a sense of urgency” about getting 4,000 people to help with the project, they’re confident Kauaians will once again come out of the woodwork to help with the bridge work.

A few years ago, 7,000 people showed up to build Kamalani Playground at Lydgate Park in tribute to the islanders’ volunteer spirit.

“There’s a way for everyone to help” this time, and indeed nearly everyone on Kaua’i (about one in every 12 people on the island) is needed to pitch in, said Tim Bynum, one of the chief organizers, on the eve of today’s pre-build.

People with first-aid training, others who can call to remind volunteers when their shifts start, folks to donate tools, prepare and serve food and clean up, people to sign-in volunteers, and skilled and unskilled construction workers are all needed, he said.

Artists are welcome to help with the artwork to adorn the new structure, a 35-foot-tall pedestrian bridge designed by children to be built near the ocean’s edge on the Lihu’e side of the Lydgate Park access road.

Bynum, buoyed by the interest of people driving by the construction site and becoming inspired to join the volunteer effort, is confident that many people who didn’t sign up in advance to help will simply show up.

“People can still call and sign up (245-5959), or they can just come down,” Bynum said. “It’s the way Kaua’i is. People come at the last minute, and we’re hoping several thousand of them come at the last minute.”

A blessing of the site is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. today, followed by work, including digging of holes for footings until nightfall.

Called the “pre-build,” the initial site preparation actually began last weekend with the pouring of some cement footings, raising tents and getting water and electrical lines to the construction site, said Bynum.

Besides warm bodies, tools (routers, post hole diggers, drills, orbital saws, etc.) are needed. Those donating tools will get them back in like condition, or have them replaced with new tools if they are broken during the work, he said.

But back to the warm bodies.

“We still have a sense of urgency about getting enough volunteers,” Bynum conceded. “I’m very optimistic that there are a lot of people out there who intend to come who haven’t signed up and given us their name and phone number but will be here.”

“We have this almost non-stop flow of people driving down here to the site and saying ‘Where is that bridge, anyway?’ And those people get inspired when they see what we’re doing, and they see the site getting set up.”

If enough volunteers don’t turn out, plans for the bridge might have to be scaled back. “None of us want that to happen, and we would wait until the last minute before we scaled back any of our elaborate and ambitious plans,” Bynum said.

The build site already resembles a huge lu’au, with eight Big Save tents strung together to make the prefabrication area, and generators to power lights for nighttime work.

Massage therapists will set up a tent and tables and offer their services to other volunteers, and the list of things to do is long.

Staff Writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at mailto:pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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