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‘We’re fed up already’: Residents hold rally over state of parks, beaches

March 18, 2017 - 9:34am

KAILUA-KONA — Naomi Camacho, a grandmother of 23 grandchildren, said she’d never take her grandkids to the beach.

“Never, not anymore,” she said.

The woman’s lived in Kona since 1968. Back then, she said, she could go to the Kailua pier and go swimming, never feeling anything but safe.

Things are different, she said on Friday, holding up a sign that read, “We’re taking back our community,” and another that read, “We’re taking back our beaches!”

These days, she explained, public parks and beaches are rife with squatters who leave behind trash, waste and drug paraphernalia — so much so that she doesn’t feel safe taking her family out.

“The kids want to go to the beach; it’s like, ‘no,’” she said. “So who suffers? The kids.”

Camacho was among a handful of residents rallying to draw attention to the state of public parks and beaches.

“Take ‘um back,” declared signs and T-shirts at the rally, a call to action for passing motorists.

Bolo, a local musician, said the slogan illustrates the sad state of local beaches.

“It’s like we shouldn’t have even had to do that to begin with,” he said. “It shouldn’t have been taken from us anyway. This life is for all of us here in general.”

Bolo distinguishes between those who are homeless and in need of assistance and those he calls “criminal vagrant squatters,” individuals causing the unsafe environment at parks and beaches.

“The thing is they’re posing as homeless,” he said of the latter. “So the police officers, the advocates, they get confused and they don’t know how to figure out who’s who at this point.”

Born and raised in Kona, Bolo has deep roots in the community, including around Old Airport Park.

As a result, he said, it’s his kuleana to look after the place, leading the musician to engage with the community by posting videos about the issue and calls to action at his Facebook and website.

That’s because the consequence of not taking action is the loss of public areas meant for residents’ enjoyment and recreation.

“The Old Airport, for example, is a ghost town,” he said. “And it’s our largest park here in Kona.

“The gym is right there; the baseball field is right there; the soccer field is right there. It’s all joined together at the hip and these things are detracting and pushing away our community and our children,” he added.

Earlier this month, 1,000 volunteers came together to clean up 133 miles of West Hawaii’s coast line. One contingent of that effort focused entirely on Old Airport park, picking up rubbish.

But in the less-than-two weeks since the cleanup, “it’s all trashed again,” said Jeff Fear.

“I mean you name it — bottles, cans, trash, blankets, beds,” he said. “It’s disgusting.”

But, rally attendees said, it doesn’t seem any government leaders seem interested in addressing the issue.

“The thing is you say something and nothing’s happening,” Camacho said. “And it shouldn’t be like that because it’s our hard earnings — taxpayers’ money — that a lot of them get paid.”

“So when there’s an issue and there’s a problem it should be solved,” she added.

The county recently came up with a plan they want to implement in the coming weeks that will close the park for a couple days and relocate the homeless populations there while offering them services. Mayor Harry Kim said it was an effort that wasn’t a beach cleanup, but one “to make this a better place to live.”

Fear emphasized the timing, saying that it needs to be addressed “not next month, this week.”

“I hear it from tourists, local families, all of the above,” he said. “We’re just fed up already; we want our beaches back.”

Bolo said they plan to continue to fight their quest.

“I feel that it’s my kuleana, and Jeff does, and all of us here do, and we’re building a force that does,” he said. “And we want to make changes for the love of our community.”

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