By Tommy Noyes

Beach Cleanup Team volunteers Charlotte Lydgate, John Lord, Steve Hardy, Doug Shannon and Tommy Noyes get started on a typical Saturday morning beach grooming session at Morgan’s Ponds in Lydgate Beach Park. Contributed photo by Micki Evslin

Lydgate Beach Park is a prominent East Kaua‘i attraction. Within the park, a 2.6-acre enclosed body of seawater known as Morgan’s Ponds includes a children’s wading pool and a larger swimming area. More than half a century ago, Albert and Helen Morgan proposed the rock wall enclosure, and the state-funded construction was completed in 1964.

Albizia trees (Falcataria moluccana) have infested our island. An extremely fast-growing (up to 15 feet per year) invasive species, albizia trees can reach heights of up to 150 feet tall and are prone to “sudden limb shear” or “sudden branch drop.” Fallen trees and limbs block roads and clog waterways such as the Wailua River. They damage infrastructure and property, and are costly to remove.

These massive tree trunks and limbs tend to drift downwind after washing out of the Wailua River’s mouth, and come ashore at Lydgate Beach Park. Some of that vegetative material ends up in Morgan’s Ponds. Once in the enclosed ponds, the debris have no natural exit.

Following numerous extreme weather events, the County of Kaua‘i’s Department of Parks and Recreation has reliably mobilized resources to clear the Morgan’s Ponds beaches of huge debris accumulations. Once the mass of albizia is hauled away (and eventually reduced to mulch), literally tons of small branches and bits of wood remain littering the beaches, and additional material finds its way into the ponds.

Fortunately, a corps of dedicated volunteers — the Friends of Kamalani and Lydgate Park Beach Cleanup Team — show up every Saturday morning for beach grooming. In coordinated two-hour sessions (8:30 to 10:30 a.m.), the small group typically clears away all the driftwood and plastic marine debris.

Just about every Saturday morning, Eve Hands brings a four-wheel drive pickup truck and treats to this “community service + social interaction” opportunity.

“It’s so gratifying to see the results,” volunteer Steve Hardy said. “This is needed work that’s fun and easy. Comradeship and community feeling one day per week improves my home, Kauai.”

“The reason I come to volunteer is to make the Park look better,” Martin Castillo said.

“The Beach Cleanup Team cleans and beautifies the entire Morgan’s Ponds area, removing trash, tons of wood, and plastics galore,” said Charlotte Lydgate, the widow of John Lydgate, grandson of Dr. John Mortimer Lydgate; the park’s namesake. “This community service group never gives up restoring, staying friends, and engaging new volunteers.”

“I come because it’s great exercise, and I’m helping my community,” said 11-year-old Berkley Feutz.

“Keeping our island beautiful is a responsibility,” Berkley’s dad, Tim Feutz, continued. “This wonderful group of volunteers and their dedication make it a great experience.”

“I like to clean up the beach — keep it nice — and I like the relationships with my fellow workers,” added Doug Shannon.

Participants in this small group activity adhere to the COVID-19 pandemic suppression guidelines as promulgated by the County of Kaua‘i, including wearing masks and observing social distancing in an open-air setting.

For information on volunteering in Lydgate Park, contact the author at 808 639-1018.

  • Tommy Noyes is Kaua‘i Path’s executive director, a League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructor and active with the Kaua‘i Medical Reserve Corps.

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