By Nina Wu
So, there you have it.
Prof. Stephen Leatherman of Florida, aka Dr. Beach, has put Waimanalo Beach Park at the top of his annual "Top 10" beach list. A recent Associated Press story spoke of Waimanalo's "powdery white coral sand" glowing in the morning light.
Sure, the bay is beautiful, as are the sands — until, that is, you see the cigarette butts.
There they were over Memorial Day weekend, more than 12, all near the base of an ironwood tree. Someone, or some persons, apparently smoked a whole pack right there, leaving their butts in the sand, even though smoking has been banned at all city beaches and parks on Oahu.
Of course, there were cigarette butts also strewn along the naupaka planted at the top of the shoreline.
This is actually along one of the beach access points along the stretch of Waimanalo Beach, and not the one near the homeless encampment closer to the city's parking lot, lifeguard station and restrooms, which also need help.
Has Dr. Beach actually walked along Waimanalo Beach? I know he's aware of marine debris issues. The windward side of Oahu actually rakes in most of the debris from throughout the Pacific. This was documented by NOAA's aerial marine survey. Of the 176 debris sites recorded during the survey, 171 were on the windward side of islands. Kahuku has the most dense accumulation of debris, but the beaches of Waimanalo also get a good share of it.
Dr. Leatherman was quoted by the Associated Press as saying: "Cigarette butts are the number one form of litter on beaches – plastics in terms of volume but in terms of numbers it's cigarette butts — so I'm starting to give beaches extra credit for no smoking."
Well, Dr. Beach, marine debris is pretty much embedded all along the shoreline of Waimanalo Beach. Walk along the shoreline and you will see small bits of plastic — blue, light blue, white — itty, bitty pieces of plastic film (perhaps from shopping bags?), pieces of worn out string and pieces of straw embedded in the fine sand.
Look closely, and you will see it.
Once, standing at the shoreline, I watched as larger chunks of marine debris danced along the waves. Among them: what looked like corners of plastic boxes, a rice paddle and bottle caps. Eventually, the ocean spat these pieces out on to the shore — other pieces continued to dance in the waves.
On windy days, this is also a spot where you should watch out for stinging Portuguese man-o-wars.
As far as larger chunks of litter go, there was a water bottle, a forgotten baseball cap crusted with sand and half of a boogie board left on shore. So next time you visit Waimanalo Beach, pick up some of this debris or litter along the shoreline and help make it a better place. There's a non-profit called 808 Cleanups that encourages you to do so, and to post it to social media.
I think Dr. Beach should compile a list of the "Top 10 Beaches to Clean," and most certainly, Waimanalo Beach should be on it.