LIHUE — Crystine Ito still remembers when she would spend entire days with her family at Lydgate Beach Park and feed the fish in the nearby ponds.
It is a special place that, Ito said, receives a lot of love and support from the community.
“Lydgate Park is kind of important to me, because I’ve always been involved in it since I was little, because that’s when Kamalani Playground had actually gone up,” said Ito, who grew up in Kapaa and attended Kapaa High School.
But it is also a place that, some say, has encountered a number of challenges over the years.
When she was a freshman in high school, Ito recalled how the heavy rains that year damaged the beach park’s swimming ponds and sparked a massive cleanup by the Friends of Kamalani and Lydgate Park, a local volunteer group that has maintained the area since Kamalani Playground was constructed in 1994.
“I remember going and not even being able to help out in the water because I was a minor — it was that bad,” said Ito, who returned to the park on Saturday during her four-day community service tour on Kauai as the queen of the 61st Cherry Blossom Festival.
“That kind of resonated with me because it made me realize how much the organization works on it and how much it has improved,” Ito added. “It’s swimmable, people can enjoy it, and I think that’s what keeps them coming back.”
To help keep it that way, Ito along with 77 other volunteers from several community service organizations, including the Kapaa High School National Honors Society, Interact Club, Japanese Club and Cheer Squad, gathered at Lydgate Beach Park to clean up areas of the park that will be examined by the county council on Wednesday.
At issue, Friends of Kamalani and Lydgate Park general coordinator Tommy Noyes said, are the proliferation of albezia tree branches that fall into the Wailua River, float downstream, wash over the beach park sea wall and end up in the swimming ponds.
Oceanit, a Lihue-based engineering consulting company, worked with the Department of Parks and Recreation and Public Works to restore the seawall several years ago, but since the restoration took place, Noyes said “there were impacts to the water quality and turbidity of the water in the ponds.”
The last major inundation of the ponds, Noyes said, was in March. Since then, The Friends of Kamalani and Lydgate Park has worked to curb those incidences by organizing beach clean up days at the swimming ponds every Saturday morning.
“There’s no reason to expect that we won’t have an inundation this year or next year,” Noyes said. “We expect it’s just a matter of time. It’s going to happen and we need to have a contingency plan in place.”
Some progress, however, was made over the weekend.
In all, Noyes estimates that volunteers on Saturday removed about 1,500 pounds of leaves from the Hikinaakala Heiau site and picked up about 450 pounds of litter and marine debris from the beach.
Volunteers also replenished sand in the area of the swimming ponds that were filled with debris and removed construction materials from the demolition of a picnic pavillion.
“If you want to volunteer, reach out to those who are involved with it or just ask questions,” Ito said.
Info: www.kamalani.org or email@example.com.