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Canoe Club Members Find Kailua Pier Littered With Trash

By Tiffany DeMasters
March 21, 2021, 7:30 AM HST
* Updated March 20, 5:28 PM
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A canoe club is calling on the community to help them protect the Kailua Pier.

On March 15, the Kai ‘Ōpua Canoe Club returned to their outriggers for the first time in a year after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. When they arrived to the pier that morning, trash and homeless stood between them and their canoes.

“We couldn’t walk through here,” said Kai ‘Ōpua Canoe Club Doug Vera Cruz. “The trash was unprecedented.”

Vera Cruz was at the canoe club the night before making sure everything was ready for the club’s first day back. He said the trash they found Wednesday was accrued between 9:30 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. the next day.

While picking up trash Friday morning, Vera Cruz explained the events that occurred earlier in the week. He said there were about 30 homeless people camped out between the bathrooms and Kamakahonu Beach, the area littered with trash.

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While it’s not uncommon to find the homeless at the pier, Vera Cruz said there’s always been an unspoken line of trust and respect between the club and those who stay on the pier.

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“The homeless are either trying to sell club members fake weed or ask for money,” Vera Cruz said, adding Wednesday’s events crossed the line.

Vera Cruz posted images of the trash on social media writing, “Disrespected and disgusting! It is not safe for the keiki. It is not safe for the Kupuna. It is not safe for anyone! It is now time to take a stand and clean up our treasured gem, the Kailua Kona Pier.”

Vera Cruz put calls into everyone he could to help find a solution to the circumstances on the pier. One of those calls was to Sen. Dru Kanuha.

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“I got calls and pictures and I couldn’t believe it,” Kanuha told Big Island Now Friday afternoon. “It’s very hard to see that happening continuously in the town that I was born and raised.”

To address the issue immediately, Kanuha said, he called DLNR’s Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBOR) about the trash. The senator also thinks there needs to be better security.

According to DLNR, DOBOR staff goes to the pier daily to remove trash and clean up the vandalism from the homeless individuals on the pier. However, officials say, the pandemic has put a strain on staff and resources.

While trash is one aspect of the problem, Kanuha said, the overall issue of homelessness is one that needs to be addressed as a community.

“No one should be camping on the pier,” Kanuha said, explaining Hawai‘i County has set up temporary shelters for families and individuals. The state continues to work with the county on building out more housing.

Aside from housing, Kanuha said, it’s important funds are available for programs that support mental health and substance abuse.

“There’s a bunch of different levels of effort to help those who need the help and hopefully want the help,” the senator said.

A lifetime member of Kai ‘Ōpua, Kanuha said, he grew up paddling and the pier was a social focal point.

“It was kind of like my second home,” he said. “It does disturb me to see this kind of stuff happening.”

Vera Cruz said he hopes to open the club to all its members by the summertime.

“Paddling, it’s a passion we have and it’s our civic duty to protect the pier,” Vera Cruz said.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.
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