KAPAA — Kapaa’s Lihi Park is a special place for local fishermen, passing visitors and some Native Hawaiians.
Kauai’s popular multi-use path, Ke Ala Hele Makalae, winds through the park. On Thursday morning, helmeted bicyclists zipped by and chatting pedestrians strolled along.
The Waikaea Canal boat ramp was peaceful and quiet, with a few empty boat trailers in the parking area and a couple fishing along the dock.
Next to the ocean jetty, two local women searched the shoreline for shells and colorful sea glass to create necklaces and handmade jewelry.
Meanwhile, down the beach, surrounded by caution signs, an adult female monk seal rested on its back in the fine sand.
Within Lihi Park, small groups of people, about 20 total, rested in the shade, sunned on the lawn and talked story at the picnic tables. Some took advantage of the park’s restroom facilities for washing in the fresh water.
On Monday, Kauai Police Department’s Fugitive Apprehension Strike Team, along with officers from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement and county park rangers, made arrests and removed several illegal campsites and two truckloads of abandoned property near Lihi Park.
“My sister is part of the Neighborhood Watch program,” said Jonathan Oclit, resident of the area. “If you got a fishing pole, they cannot kick you out under Hawaiian law. Your dog always got to be on a leash too.”
Oclit picked up rubbish and helped tourists with directions before getting back to petting his dog and fixing his bike in good time.
He said he is disappointed when a few park users and campers leave behind their garbage. Sometimes he even finds used hypodermic needles.
“It doesn’t matter, because I’m here,” Oclit said. “I’m gonna make sure the tourists is safe, us is safe, the cops is safe. I definitely not gonna let nobody mess this up for me. This is my home, this is where I sleep. I would die if I could just own this whole beach.”
Although some people are concerned about safety issues in the area, others stop by to relax and admire the park’s scenic surroundings.
Bryce and Tamara Lemon were visiting the island for the first time from Elkhart, Indiana, to celebrate their 39th anniversary.
“We just went for a bike ride this morning, and we’re gonna do a helicopter ride later,” Bryce said. “The bike trail is awesome. I hope they connect it to the one that’s on the other side of the Wailua River.”
After a two-hour ride on rented bikes, the couple took a few minutes to enjoy Lihi Park while feeling completely safe and welcomed by the locals.
“It’s a beautiful island, and this is a beautiful park,” Tamara said. “We love it here.”
Tradewinds blew salty air across the park, and the faint scent of pakalolo lingered from beneath the trees.
Several people relaxed in shade tents and lawn chairs beside the grassy hill, some talking and some smoking.
One park resident is a Native Hawaiian and grandmother to seven. She has been widowed twice after one husband died serving in Vietnam and the other in Iraq.
Living here for 30 years, she continues to keep up the restrooms and share her knowledge of the area with visitors. She said that a few people have disrespected the park by doing drugs, leaving their litter and causing trouble.
“You know if we get any fights, we go over there, we stop them,” Oclit said. “Sometimes we get drunkards act dumb, talk stupid. I just go over when necessary, talk to them and try to explain you can’t do this, you can’t do that. But some is just hot air.”
Oclit claims to have saved someone from drowning here about two months ago, and also helped a solo female who was being harassed. He hopes to make a positive impact on the community since being released from jail in 2010.
“After being locked up for 20 years, being free like this is a blessing,” Oclit said. “I would never ever think about doing a crime again.”