KLA’s ‘Ocean-Minded Community’ to the rescue

  • Melinda Uohara of the Kauai Chamber of Commerce public relations committee said there are only a few tables remaining for the Kauai Lifeguard Association's 4th Wave Celebration. Dr. Monty Downs and Andy Melamed are shown with the display board for KLA, a new Chamber member, during the New Member Showcase, Thursday at the Chamber's 2nd Quarter Membership Meeting at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa.

The Kauai Lifeguard Association’s goal is to help save lives. And they do so while trying to further an “Ocean-Minded Community.” Its efforts could not take place without the generous support of Kauai’s concerned businesses and individuals.

One example of how KLA’s Ocean-Minded Community succeeded is how the Anini Beach lifeguard patrol came to fruition in 2019, and for years to come. It all began during the Westin Princeville Resort’s Jazz and Wine Festival in September of 2018. Dr. Monty Downs was approached and told of the need of assistance for “eyes-on” ocean safety at Anini Beach Park.

Because the roads leading to Ke‘e and Haena Beach Park were closed due to landslides and wash-outs, visitors interested in snorkeling were flocking to Anini in large numbers. Although instructed by many to go to lifeguarded beaches, Anini provided what appeared to be a long stretch of protected waters and a pristine setting that featured thousands of beachgoers daily with no lifeguards in sight.

It should be noted that though the ocean in the area appears safe, looks can be deceiving, especially on our island. Large ocean swells breaking on the outside reefs will create strong currents and rip tides, and countless rescues and drownings have actually occurred at Anini in recent years.

Dr. Downs mentioned the North Shore’s concerns to Andy Melamed, a KLA board member who has assisted in marketing and raising funds for KLA over the past eight years. He suggested to Dr. Downs and Kalani Vierra that a plan be presented to address the situation.

Kalani Vierra and then-Chief Robert Westerman found a way within this year’s budget to propose an emergency request for 2.5 lifeguard positions through the fiscal year.

These positions would allow for the North Shore mobile patrol to increase its roving capability to seven days a week specifically in that area at a time with more and more beach-goers would be coming to Kauai, and more and more large waves would be hitting the northern end of our island.

In late October, Downs, Vierra and Melamed presented Kalani’s proposal to both mayoral candidates. At that time Mel Rapozo was still chair of the County Council and he felt something might get done with regards to approval. In fact both he and Derek Kawakami were both most enthusiastic about this proposal and its needs, and soon Bill 2731 was introduced into the council.

While this was incubating, a new mayor was elected, and a new council was installed. There were several testimony opportunities and all parties were educated about this emergency safety need and how KLA had raised funds of close to one million dollars over the past eight years.

Those monies were then shown to the council as to how they assisted the county with its Ocean Safety Bureau. Such support illustrated just how important our island community feels about such safety.

The bill was passed by the council in a 6-1 vote on Jan. 23 — not without careful debate and discussion. The bill was signed into law by Mayor Kawakami on Feb. 1. As he signed it, he remarked on how happy and proud he was to be able to team up with the County Council and KLA along with the community in order to make Kauai a safer place.

The conception and birth of Bill 2731 is a perfect example of what an Ocean-Minded Community is all about. This interaction on all fronts proved to be worthwhile in many ways.

KLA is co-hosting along with the Kauai Marriott Resort &Beach Club the Kauai Chamber of Commerce quarterly dinner membership meeting March 14. At the dinner will be a lively forum and video presentation on the ways to further efforts in building and maintaining an Ocean-Minded Community on all fronts.

At the event Chantal Zarbaugh will unveil KLA’s annual fundraiser, set for June 1 at Kalapaki Beach. The Beach Bash will once again give KLA supporters a chance to celebrate our lifeguards and Ocean Safety Bureau’s efforts to help save lives.

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Andy Melamed is a resident of Kapaa.

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