WAILUA — Walkers using the Lydgate Park beach path were greeted with a sight pleasant to them one morning earlier this week.
Unfortunately, it only meant the beginning of a cleanup effort that will see the popular ponds at the beach park closed until at least Monday, Oct. 10.
Operators aboard a pair of excavators rumbled across the grassy area and parked at the water’s edge at the two popular pools, as a second cleanup of debris began.
County officials authorized back-to-back beach cleanups by the heavy-equipment operators from Brown’s Trucking, at a cost to taxpayers of $39,000, said Mary Daubert, county public information officer.
The Brown’s crew members were expected to finish up their debris removal work by yesterday, Friday, Oct. 7, but since state Department of Health officials still need to test the water and deem it suitable for swimming before it is safe to go back into the water, the ponds will likely be closed until at least Monday, Oct. 10, Daubert said.
Back-to-back, severe rainstorms in the interior of Kaua’i dumped nearly two feet of rain on Mt. Wai’ale’ale on consecutive weeks, sending tons of debris down the Wailua River and out to sea, with much of it coming to rest in the two manmade swimming ponds at Lydgate Park.
The ponds were closed twice last month and this month, with a largely-volunteer effort resulting in most of the debris being removed and burned after the first storm, with workers from Brown’s Trucking hired to finish the job the first time and complete the entire job the second time.
The type of debris varied after each storm, with the first storm’s debris being mostly downed trees, while the second storm deposited finer organic material in the ponds that was tougher to remove.
John Lydgate, one of the Lydgate Park volunteers, was doing some errands in the park, and described the second-storm debris as being mostly leaf mold, comprised of small organic material.
“I would love to have some of that stuff to build berms,” he noted as he tucked away the supplies from his errand.
The popular beach park is named for his grandfather, who passed away in 1922, and Lydgate said the park was opened in 1924.
He explained that the tidal pools were built in 1964, spear-headed by Albert Morgan, but over the years, and following hurricanes in 1982 and 1992, some of the original specifications have become clouded over.
Researching the history of the park for an upcoming magazine article, Lydgate said that following the hurricanes, the cleanup did not involve dredging the pools to their original depths, and some of the rocks on the seawall were not replaced.
This could be the cause of the debris buildup in the popular pools, and he suggested that perhaps a re-examination of the original specifications done by Morgan could be done, with the seawall being built up higher to prevent further depositing of debris.
Lydgate suggested that when the walls were damaged by the hurricanes, the rocks that were lost were never replaced.
One of the county of Kaua’i Fire Department Ocean Safety Bureau officers on duty Wednesday said he was pleased that cleanup work began for the second time in as many weeks.
He noted that state Department of Health officials said they could not take accurate water quality samples with debris still floating, so the cleanup signaled the start of a return to normal beach patterns.
Once DOH tests indicate safe water quality conditions, the beaches will be reopened to the public.
“This is a popular beach for both residents and visitors, and when it’s closed, I miss the people,” he lamented.
County parks personnel were also pleased with the appearance of the two excavators. They had been hacking away at the debris for the past two days, and now simply watched as the excavator operators made short work of the debris buildup.
“They’re (the excavator operators) really good,” the caretakers noted. “They look like the same crew from the last cleanup, and they take away the rubbish without disturbing any of the rocks.”
“One of them actually pulled large logs from the rocks,” the water-safety officer pointed out.
They suggested that for the amount spent on the contract cleanup, perhaps county leaders could look into procuring their own equipment so future debris buildup could be attacked quickly.
The water safety officer concurred, and Lydgate indicated that, once the shoreline buildup is removed, the high tide will still wash in more accumulation from outside the sea wall, as well as from other parts of the beach.
If county workers had their own equipment, this could be cleaned up as it occurs. “We don’t need anything that big. Maybe a Bobcat,” they suggested.
Additionally, because debris accumulation takes place several times a year depending on the number of storms, such an investment would make sense, they said.
A visiting couple who had planned to snorkel at Lydgate Park earlier this week watched in silence as the excavator crew members worked, and, after learning that a high swell was expected on the North and South shores, decided, “Well, maybe we’ll go hiking today.”
- Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or firstname.lastname@example.org