Working together, we always make a difference

My partner, Lincoln, and I swim in Morgan’s Ponds at Lydgate Park almost every morning. We enjoy the double blessing of swimming laps and visiting colorful tropical fish in ocean water while being protected from crashing waves by the sea wall that encloses both the main and keiki pools.

The ponds were created in 1964 at the suggestion of Kauai resident Albert Morgan, who wanted a safe place for his children to experience the ocean. He had seen a similar set-up while visiting Italy and brought the idea home to Kauai. We are fortunate to have this easy place to enjoy the ocean, virtually in our backyard.

We’re not the only ones who love the ponds. Local families fill the beach park daily, young children splashing and playing safely in the shallow water while parents talk story or barbecue nearby. Kupuna come each morning to swim, knowing they are protected. We’ve even seen some of Kauai’s lifeguards take a dip. Just this morning, a woman visiting from Oregon and I were appreciating the beautiful sky while treading water in the center of the pond, where it is about nine feet deep. She told me, “This beach is my favorite part of my vacation. I’m so glad I found it.”

So when the opportunity arose to help clear out thousands of pounds of waterlogged twigs and branches that washed over the walls during past storms and sunk to the bottom, Lincoln and I were there to help.

The first “Snorkel for a Cause” was held one month ago, powered by volunteers from around the island. Tommy Noyes, general coordinator of the Friends of Kamalani Playground and Lydgate Park, a collection of community-minded people who care for the ponds, the beach park and the park’s two community-built playgrounds, has devised a beautifully simple way to collect the debris. He has recycled a handful of bright blue plastic barrels, cut them in half lengthwise so they easily float, and linked them together them with carabiners. Divers simply swim to the bottom (goggles and fins are helpful), scoop a handful of branches off the bottom, swim to the surface and deposit the branches into the blue barrels. As the barrels fill, volunteers take turns unclipping the carabiners and swimming the barrels into shore where the land-based crew empties them and hauls the debris to an onsite county-supplied rubbish bin.

When we first started, the task seemed almost overwhelming. Each time we dove down and grabbed some branches, all we could see were so many more. For a moment I wondered if we had bitten off more than we could chew, sort of like counting all the grains of sand on the beach. But everyone kept diving — and laughing, having fun — and bringing up one armful after another.  

Within a couple hours on our first day, our all-volunteer group – including some mainland visitors – removed 2,000 pounds of waterlogged branches from Morgan’s Ponds. Two weeks later, with more divers and more visitors, we removed another 3,000 pounds! Working together, we have made a huge difference: We have gotten 90 percent of the debris out of the pond!

The beauty of the day was that everyone was able to help, whether they preferred to get wet or stay dry. Even 11-year-old Kekoa Zahn was a workhorse, topping his small white raft repeatedly with sticks from shallower water, where his mother preferred he swim.

The water looks so much better now! Even the fish seem to appreciate the returned water clarity. Schools of big blue surgeonfish are now swimming more often on the side of the pond where a much-smaller field of debris remains, and the sandy bottom is more visible.

Our friend Bill Buley, who is editor of The Garden Island newspaper, had so much fun that he kept saying, “Let’s do this again!” So we are!

Join us from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. Saturday Oct. 26 as we Snorkel for a Cause for probably the final time this year, It’s also national Make a Difference Day and volunteers are needed to do other upkeep work at Kamalani Playground until noon that day. Come make a difference in one of Kauai’s safest swimming and snorkeling spots on the island, make new friends and have fun while doing it. Please register online at: Register for Snorkel For A Cause/National Make A Difference Day in Lydgate Park . The registration form takes only 5 seconds to complete.

P.S. Some of us have found it easier to dive in Morgan’s Ponds with only swim goggles rather than a snorkel. Lincoln and I just found the absolute best swim goggles we have ever had: Speedo Vanquisher 2.0 Plus. The visibility is amazing. Nope, we’re not selling them – we just love ‘em and wanted to share our find with anyone who wants to upgrade. You can buy them online and possibly locally. We prefer the mirrored ones.

• Pamela Varma Brown is the publisher “Kauai Stories,” a collection of 50 humorous, touching and inspiring stories in the words of Kauai’s people. She has lived on Kauai for 25 years.

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