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Small island turns into dangerous pile of problems

By Lara Yamada
Published On: Apr 11 2013 07:14:00 PM HST

Just about every kind of trash, and now a homeless village is growing within Keehi Lagoon.

HONOLULU -

It's an area used by skiers, boaters, canoe clubs and others.

Just off the crust of Ke'ehi Boat Harbor sits Slipper Island, and a big mess that's become an in-your-face problem.

"Lately, it's been really bad," said Hawaii Water Ski Association President Skip Sheather.

He has seen the island in its heyday and during its decline.

"At one time we had bleachers down the berm," he said.

One month after his first encounter with a homeless man, he found remnants of another squatter.

"We got another visitor. This is ridiculous," he said, parking his boat at his dock and sorting through pots, clothes, fishing gear, and rubbish piled inside the boat house.

"How frustrated am I? On a scale of 1-10, about a nine," he said.

"I had asked the coordinator for one of the toughest areas, or the toughest area, and he said 'Oh I've got the place for you,'" said Matt Bickel with Architects Hawaii.

He has been organizing annual cleanups on Slipper Island and other areas.

He said he's not surprised the homeless have moved from the streets, to the freeways and to the places meant for fun in the sun.

But he's focused on the painful mess, giving not only locals, but visitors an unwelcome view.

"We see the planes coming and going all day long, and they're making a turn, and looking down at all of our trash," he said.

In the eight years Hawaii Architects and volunteers have been coming to Slipper Island they've picked up some 14 tons of trash.

They said it's been a sad, but valuable learning experience for those who visit the island.

"This is the end result of all of the things we don't do with recycling," he said.

A mishmash of jurisdictions is part of the problem.

The FAA manages the reef runway and the area that sits behind Slipper Island.

The state manages the rest of the lagoon.

"You come out and see something like this. Now, what do I do," asked Sheather.

He just hopes a once ideal place to play, doesn't end up a place to avoid.

"It affects everybody, or it will in the long run," he said.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources told KITV that in the last year or two, they have been removing items from the island, including four boats on Wednesday.

They also said when a team checked out the island they found one small encampment.

KITV spotted at least two, and one more on nearby berm, including a several dogs and a table with fresh flower arrangements on it.

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