Good intentions behind growing garbage pile

It was more than three weeks ago, Dec. 10, that about two dozen volunteers helped clear an area along Maalo Road in Kapaia that has been used as an illegal dumping area for years. This is the same road that leads to the popular tourist attraction, Wailua Falls.

Their haul of trash was impressive. They pulled out mattresses, auto frames, discarded tires, chairs and old appliances, in addition to filling a mountain of trash bags loaded with other waste material. It was quite a sight— an ugly one at that. Nothing anyone would want to look at very long, and nothing Kauai would want sitting in full display for all our guests to see as they passed by on their way to the falls — and wonder what that was all about.

And yet, closing in on a month later, the trash heap, in all its glory, still sits there.

And it’s growing. More garbage has been added to it. More waste. More junk.

It’s quite sad, actually, that the good, dedicated work of those volunteers from the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society for Two-year Colleges and members of the Kauai Community College Sustainability Club is now even being questioned. Some are saying they should have left the garbage where it was, at least hidden away and out of sight. Who even knew it was there? Now, everyone does.

Others have questioned why, after so long, that huge heap is still sitting there. Perhaps these volunteers should have planned a bit better, at least considered who, and when, was going to take all this waste away before they hauled it to the roadside.

Firstly, hats off to the volunteers for their efforts to rid Kauai of garbage where it doesn’t belong. Their sincerity can’t be questioned. We wish more people were as committed to their community as these folks.

“People in the area know about this, but nothing has been done,” Justin Carvalho, organizer and a Kauai Community College faculty in carpentry, told TGI’s Dennis Fujimoto. “We even called the county about this problem, and nothing has happened. Enough is enough, already.”

“We have an area of Maalo Road a further way up to be responsible for cleaning,” Carvalho said. “Compared to this place, that area of road is clean. I’ve seen this place get worse over the years. My dad has a business just up the road and we’ve seen this place get neglected for years.”

A member of the cleanup crew said they approached businesses in the area to get some help. They got it. Hawaii Rental Cars and Scooters and JC Sandblasting and Recycle Kauai Service lent their efforts to the cause. And we thank them.

Back to who’s in charge here.

It sounds like things could have been coordinated better. Carvalho declined to talk to TGI when a reporter contacted him this week to ask about the pile of trash and what plans there were for its removal. TGI’s Fujimoto said he was told organizers had planned to remove it with their own trucks, but it didn’t work out.

Maalo Road is not a county road — it’s a state road — and the county is not responsible for this mess. However, the county has offered to help if need be. That’s the aloha spirit.

Hawaii’s Department of Transportation, which was not initially informed of the volunteer cleanup project, said Wednesday it is sending a crew to clean up trash within the state’s right of way. That’s good, though it seems this has taken an awfully long time.

The lesson to be learned here is, while we love community activism and pulling up sleeves and going to work, communication and coordination is critical. A few advance phone calls to the right people will help avoid situations like this one, with a pile of garbage sitting on a Kauai roadside for all to see and shake their heads at in wonder of what’s going on and why it’s there.

The best solution? We all pitch in and do our part to keep Kauai beautiful.

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