Surfrider plays musical chairs

LIHUE — Barbara Weidner just stepped into a new role as chair of Surfrider Foundation Kauai, but she’ll still be cleaning beaches and visiting schools.

“One of my goals is to continue to visit at least one school every month and do at least one cleanup with a school every month,” Weidner said.

Weidner spent the last two years serving as vice-chair of the chapter and is one of the original founding members. She has been on the board of directors for 11 years.

Being a former educator, working with schools is important to Weidner. Marine debris is another area of focus.

She’d like to increase the number of volunteers in the marine debris program and add to the number of individually initiated cleanups around the island.

“That’s already happening,” she said. “More and more leaders are presenting themselves and they’re going to the beaches and reporting nets and leading the cleanups themselves.”

Staff members from tour companies on the Na Pali Coast and students from Kauai Community College are some of those who are stepping up to the plate.

“The guys who do tours are pulling nets out of the water and calling me, and students are doing service projects where they’re getting nets and documenting what they’re collecting,” Weidner said.

Weidner took over as chair for Carl Berg, who has been named senior science adviser for the Kauai chapter.

“It has been a privilege to be a chair of this chapter, but also a time-consuming responsibility which I gladly pass on,” Berg said. “The chair position is not as much a leader as a coordinator of many leaders. We all have our own project passion.”

Berg’s focus is water quality. He’ll continue to be the ecologist that heads the chapter’s Blue Water Task Force. Berg also will continue to be instrumental in researching pesticides, mentoring students, and analyzing marine debris and ocean currents.

Vice-chair Gordon LaBedz is the coordinator for legislative activities, Rise Against Plastics, and Styrofoam Free Kauai.

Secretary Cynthia Welti is the coordinator for Ocean Friendly Gardens, and treasurer Scott McCubbins focuses on beach cleanups and net patrol. Also on the executive committee is Rob Brower, who helps coordinate legislative activities, and Robert Zelkovsky, who does publicity and coordinates memberships.

“We all support each other and as a whole have been able to accomplish great feats,” Berg said.

That includes removing 80,069 pounds of debris from beaches last year, testing more than 30 different streams and beaches for fecal indicating bacteria each month, and supporting students doing quality research.

“The Kauai Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation gives the community a way to express their love for the ocean, waves and beaches. It also empowers people to do something to make Kauai beautiful for our kids and grandkids,” Berg said.

Looking forward, the members of the Surfrider Kauai executive committee would like to continue putting pressure on the state’s Department of Health to post warning signs at all chronically polluted streams and beaches, and for DOH to start identifying the sources of chronic water pollution.

Ocean Friendly Restaurants is a program focused on encouraging restaurants to not use polystyrene and to provide straws only by request, and the executive committee wants to grow the Ocean Friendly Gardens program. They’re also looking for a good way to recycle all the plastic, nets and ropes that Surfrider removes from the beaches.

Weidner wants to bring everyone on board with Surfrider’s mission to protect the world’s oceans, waves and beaches for all people through conservation, activism, research and education.

“If anyone has an idea, or a coastline-related project that would match our mission statement, we’re always asking for people to join us,” Weidner said. “If it fits under the umbrella, it’s a possibility.”

She encourages those who have ideas or are curious about Surfrider Kauai to attend the executive committee meetings, set for every second Tuesday of the month, at Mariachi’s Restaurant in Kapaa, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

“I’m excited about continuing with Surfrider to work diligently to protect the ocean, waves and beaches for the enjoyment of everyone and I’ll continue to work on that mission,” Weidner said.

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