About two dozen volunteers swam into Kealakekua Bay Thursday morning to pull up debris, some remaining from the March 2011 tsunami, and other garbage.
The final haul, organizer Hallie Iglehart said, included a portion of carpet that came off Napoopoo Wharf, a plastic shower liner, insulation, flooring, plastic roofing, an air pump and a plastic folding table. A Department of Land and Natural Resources crew, on a small boat, helped with the cleanup, pulling up items by rope, attached by scuba and free divers.
“Everybody knows on some level the environment, ocean need our help,” Iglehart said. “It’s just a great example of people being in close relationship with their environment, being engaged.”
Iglehart founded All One Ocean in California, an organization that puts beach cleanup stations along the shoreline to encourage and enable beachgoers to help pick up at their favorite spots. A part-time Hawaii Island resident for 20 years, Iglehart found a note on her car windshield after arriving last month. The note asked her to put together a cleanup for Kealakekua Bay.
She likes to work on “inspired activism,” doing work that helps the environment but is fun, too. Swimming, snorkeling, free diving and scuba are activities her volunteers already enjoy, and Iglehart said one free diver, who attached rope to a plastic table 60 feet below the surface, told her after three hours of cleanup work the project was fun.
Working with friends, neighbors and even government workers, such as the DLNR boat crew that helped with the larger items, is also important, she added.
“It helps to be in a community, a part of a larger whole,” Iglehart said. “With the environment, we just do what we can.”
Community and government came together in a bit of an unexpected way for this project, Iglehart said. She contacted DLNR, where a Parks Division official said he thought it was a good idea and asked if the department could help in anyway. Iglehart said she wondered if the volunteers could get a permit to bring a boat in the bay, or if the department knew where they could get a boat.
The official responded with an offer to send a couple of employees on a department boat to help.
“I’m very grateful to DLNR,” Iglehart said. “It’s great to show cooperation between DLNR and the community.”
Several of the volunteers live near the bay or use it regularly.
“I have a care about the water quality here,” free diver Varadaan Lipman said. “It’s very satisfying to do something.”
Rick Appel, who lives near the bay part time, said he has four children, and he wants to leave a legacy of a cleaner bay for them.
“The bay is really important to me,” Appel said. “I consider it an important resource. I like to protect it as best we can from contamination and debris.”
DLNR’s latest attempt to manage the bay, by closing it to kayakers, stand-up paddleboarding and boogie boarding, was also a topic as the cleanup work began. Scuba diver David Zimmerman said he has had ongoing concerns about how the department has allowed high numbers of visitors to trek to the Captain Cook Monument, and the impact the lack of bathroom facilities at the monument has had on the bay and park.
“Maybe (hikers) need to get a permit to go down there, too,” Zimmerman said.