“Wailua Beach Hui” cleaning up beach

Out of respect for the Hawaiian royalty and ancient Hawaiians who used Wailua Bay, “Uncle” Joe Bactad and young Kaua’i men have cleaned up the East Kaua’i beach.

For the past 1 1/2 weeks, Bactad and others have removed broken glass, twigs and debris from an area by the old Seashell Restaurant at the northern end of the bay.

Bactad and others have put up a fish hut, a stand for surfboards that can be used by residents and visitors at no charge and three tiki posts, including those that have warned about the bay’s dangerous water conditions and welcomed beachusers.

Bactad, who is part Hawaiian and part Filipino, has striven to impart values of the Hawaiian culture to his charges: respect for others, cooperation, conservation of resources and aloha.

The undertaking of the “Wailua Beach Hui” has reminded residents and visitors about the historical importance the area has for Hawaiians, Bactad said.

Heiau and a birthstone are located in the area, the river provided water, the ocean provided a bounty of fish and the bay provided an easy canoe launch point.

“Wailua is in my heart,” Bactad said.

After Bactad started the cleanup, Kaua’i police received a complaint that he tried to kick someone off the beach, an allegation Bactad has denied. “Everyone is welcomed here,” he said. “All I ask is that the beach be kept clean.”

Bactad has not used the cleanup as a way to declare ownership of the beach for Hawaiians. “I am not saying I own it. But if I did own it, I would want it kept clean. That’s all,” Bactad said.

He said he is grateful for the help the youths have given so far, but hasn’t begrudged others who have come to beach and have not offered to help.

“I just like them see me sweat, to let them know somebody like me cares a lot about the aina,” Bactad said.

Bactad, 42, is the son of Octavia Nakamura and Allan Bactad, grew up in Waimea Valley and attended Waimea High School in the 1970s. Bactad is related to veteran Kaua’i police officer Sgt. Wes Kaui.

He said he learned about the rich, cultural history of Wailua ten years ago from Jimmy Yuen and Kimo Fernandes, son of William Fernandes, a powerful political leader from Kaua’i who served in the territorial legislature.

The beach protector said his appreciation for Wailua and things Hawaiian deepened when he worked as a guide at Kamokila Village, an Hawaiian settlement located along the Wailua River operated by the Fernandes family.

Bactad also gleaned more knowledge about the Wailua area from having served as a coordinator at the Kaua’i Museum, where he gave lectures on growing taro.

Bactad, a resident of Wailua, currently takes care of taro patches in the remote areas of Wailua. He said he plans to put tikis along the Wailua River one day to remind people of the special quality of the area.

For the beach cleanup, Bactad said he has gotten the support of county and state workers.

County employees have picked up bags of debris, and state Department of Land and Natural Resources employees have given him string for “weed-eating equipment,” Bactad said.

Bactad also has set up tiki posts, one of which points out the location of dangerous reefs and currents. Another welcomes people to the beach.

Bactad said he has plans to clean up the rest of the beach with his charges. He also hopes to secure an all-terrain vehicle with a brush to smooth out the sand.

Bactad said he and others don’t camp out at the beach, but do hold “kanikapila” sessions between 4 and 8 p.m. daily.

Bactad, a professional singer and guitar player, has played his favorite tunes for all who have come to the beach.

Ancient Hawaiians promoted fish conservation practices, taking no more than one can eat. Bactad has asked his charges to do the same when they have gone throw-net fishing.

From under a kamani tree, Bactad has cooked fish and has offered food to the hungry.

Bactad said he has lived and breathed the true Hawaiian lifestyle, that of sharing.

Bactad said he has worked at numerous jobs that have allowed him to lead a comfortable life. The jobs included being foreman of a roofing company and security work in the movie business.

Some of the jobs were on the mainland, but he returned to Hawai’i because he missed home and wanted a job that allowed him to live outdoors.

He said he learned about the meaning of aloha from Herman Kane, a county lifeguard in the 1970s, and Willie Yadao, a resident of the North Shore at the time. Bactad and the men used to hang around in the same beach area that he and others are keeping clean now.

“I was 14 years old then. They showed me how to be open with everyone,” Bactad said. “I doing the same. I do it old Hawaiian style.”

Some members of his hui said they have grown to respect and admire Bactad for what he has been trying to do at the beach and for the example he has set them.

Kalani Hurley, 27 of Wailua, is the son of retired deputy police chief Paul Hurley. “He (Bactad) does a lot of little things that add up.” Hurley said. “It is for everyone.”

William Fernandes, 22, is the grandson of Billy Fernandes. “It is a community cleanup that helps everyone,” he said. “I see the goodness of what he is trying to do.”

Brandon Gayagas, 22, of Lihu’e, said Bactad “shows us how he can make something that is ugly into something that is very beautiful.”

Dan Finer, 22, of Wailua said Bactad taught him why it is important to care about oneself, to keep the land clean and understand the Hawaiian culture.

“We have a clean place to eat, talk story and make friends. We have tourists who come and they become our friends,” Finer said. “It is all about uncle (Bactad).”

Staff writer Lester Chang can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and mailto:lchang@pulitzer.net

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