Retirement opens path to community work – The former Waimea Falls Park GM now serves as a steward of several North Shore areas
As reported by Alan Yonan Jr. – Dec 30, 2013
FOR many people, retirement is a time to finally relax and escape the daily grind of life and work. For Pupukea’s Roberts “Bob” Leinau, it has meant more time to pour into his ever-expanding community involvement on the North Shore.
Leinau’s regular gigs include board memberships on the North Shore Neighborhood Board, the North Shore Community Land Trust and Malama Pupukea-Waimea. He’s also involved with the North Shore Chamber of Commerce, the North Shore Outdoor Circle and the Defend Oahu Coalition. In between those commitments, the 70-year-old Leinau also finds time to help kids in the North Shore junior lifeguard program, coordinate beach cleanups and make full use of his long white beard by playing Santa in the annual Haleiwa Christmas Parade.
“Ask anyone on the North Shore and they will know Bob for his tireless community service and selfless devotion to a strong community,” said Denise Antolini, who serves with Leinau on the board of Malama Pupukea-Waimea, a community-based stewardship group.
“Bob gives back many, many times what he might take from this earth and truly exhibits ‘pono’ and ‘kuleana’ in his daily life, setting a shining and inspirational example for the community,” Antolini said.
For his part, Leinau said volunteering and community building come naturally for him.
“I’m not much for aggrandizing. I think what really makes things work is volunteerism. It’s amazing to me how many people don’t want to get involved. Every day I try to volunteer for something. I like to keep busy,” he said.
Leinau retired in 2009 after serving 35 years as general manager of Waimea Falls Park, surviving various ownership changes. He arrived on Oahu in 1965 from Manhattan Beach, Calif., at a time when the allure of Hawaii’s surf scene was drawing many from Southern California.
“I can count 30 kids from my high school now living on the North Shore. If you were oriented toward the ocean, it was the place to be,” Leinau said. “I was never a famous surfer, but I spent many years in the lineup at Sunset and Waimea Bay.”
Nowadays, Leinau prefers bodysurfing to board surfing. “At 70 you don’t get to your feet very fast,” he said with a laugh.
ONE of Leinau’s favorite breaks for bodysurfing is the point at Waimea Bay, where he was out in 10-foot swells during a recent session. “If you understand how the currents work and the bottom topography — if you’re mindful of the lay of the land — then it’s very safe,” he said.
In the summer, Leinau and his wife swim in the ocean nearly every day and compete to see who can pick up the most trash on the bottom.
Leinau said when he first got to Hawaii he had a different view of the relationship between humans and the marine ecosystem.
In his early days as a waterman, Leinau said he was a member of a spearfishing club that would regularly dive North Shore reefs and occasionally catch turtles that would end up on menus in Waikiki restaurants.
But Leinau said he noticed over time that the fish stocks were being depleted and he realized “this is not a good thing.”
“I saw a huge demise, and you can put that in capital letters,” Leinau said. “Some people today are in denial. The ocean needs all the love it can get.”
Leinau was among the community members who would later form Malama Pupukea-Waimea, a nonprofit that helps oversee the Pupukea Marine Life Conservation District formed in 1983. He regularly staffs an information booth the group sets up at Shark’s Cove on Saturdays to help educate both locals and tourists about the nonprofit and the conservation district that covers about 1 mile of North Shore coastline from Waimea Bay to Kulalua Point.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources tightened up the fishing rules for the conservation district in 2002 and since then the fish have been getting “bigger and more plentiful,” Leinau said. The fish hatched and reared in the conservation district help replenish stocks along the whole North Shore, he said. “You need protected areas for regeneration,”he said.
Antolini said she believes Leinau’s effectiveness as a community leader comes from his ability to work with all groups involved in a particular issue.
“That’s a unique thing about Bob. He’s very diverse in his contacts and his collaboration. And he’s not dogmatic. He’s very comfortable working with businesses or landowners or residents,” she said. “He has strong views, but he’s able to glide very smoothly between communities.”
source: Honolulu Star-Advertiser