Paddlers Adopt Their Home Turf

DJ Almeida and Chase Lum

Kailua Canoe Club’s DJ Almeida (left) and Chase Lum paint over graffiti at Kailua Beach Park. Photo courtesy Hank Leandro

Part of being a good steward of the ocean sometimes means being a good steward of the land. Kailua Canoe Club co-head coach Hank Leandro has long enjoyed Kailua’s crystal-clear waters, but it’s what’s on the beach that often frustrates him.

“I was sick and tired of seeing all this graffiti in our bathrooms and damage to our facilities, and thought it’s time we do something about it,” says Leandro. “So I called the city and asked, how can our club help?”

The city was thrilled and asked Leandro if the Windward Oahu canoe club would be interested in taking part in its “Adopt-A-Park” program to help care for Kailua Beach Park. Leandro says he wanted to take it a step further, and told program coordinator Clinton Jamile that club members would do more than just pick up litter.

“Besides beach cleanups, we want to help the city in a different way by painting over graffiti in the bathrooms and around the park,” says Leandro. “We know the city is doing what it can, but when it comes to graffiti, it can be hard to keep up.

We need to do our part to keep it clean because, after all, this is our beach park.”

Once he was given approval, Leandro reached out to Hardware Hawaii in Kailua, which donated paint-brushes, pans and other materials. The city supplied the paint and Kailua Canoe Club provided the manpower and “keikipower.”

“We thank Hardware Hawaii for their generosity and the city for giving us the right paint so the color would be consistent with the rest of the bathrooms,” laughs Leandro. “The kids really enjoyed themselves

and felt good about what they were doing, but I’m not sure if they got more paint on their bodies than the walls.”

Although Kailua Canoe Club has several hundred members with dozens of adults, Leandro asked the club’s teenagers and young adults to help with the initial few projects. He believes their involvement will give them a sense of pride in their community and serve as a positive example to other teenagers.

“We asked our 15- and 16-year-olds if they wanted to be a part of this and many said yes, which made the younger kids want to get involved,” says Leandro. “Kailua Beach is our home and we need to take care of our home. It’s frustrating when people come here and abuse what we have. This is everyone’s responsibility.”

Leandro says he hopes to organize more club projects and address other needs at the park, like fixing broken doors, door handles, sinks and faucets in the bathrooms.

“We have a few handy guys in our club with many contacts, so we’ll be able to replace some of those items at little or no cost,” says Leandro. “We may not fix everything like broken toilets and plumbing, but we’ll do what we can with the donations we receive.”

Leandro says club members also will meet monthly to clean up the beach park’s parking lots and surrounding areas. The city’s successful Adopt-A-Park program relies heavily on programs like Kailua Canoe Club, and since many other canoe clubs around Oahu make use of city parks and facilities, this new partnership may lead to more relationships with other groups in the future.

“We know these are tough economic times for the city, so it’s important for communities to step up and do their part,” says Leandro. “Every little bit helps. It doesn’t take much time, but our effort will go a long way.”

In this case, the effort on land can only help keep things in order in the ocean.