Superintendent Russell Galipeau

Paul Wellman

Superintendent Russell Galipeau

Debate Over Fate of Channel Islands

Management Plan Critics Cry Foul Over Permanent Housing, Snorkeling, Jeep Tours

A gaggle of curious and concerned citizenry filled Faulkner Gallery last Wednesday night to hear the proposed plan of how the Channel Islands National Park will be managed, conserved, and developed over the next 50 years. Park Superintendent Russell Galipeau walked audience members through the plan’s recently released environmental report, explaining that this meeting — and the one the night before in Ventura — was to encourage written comments and feedback for the National Park Service as it moves toward implementation. Galipeau said the document had been in the works since 2001, accompanied by dozens of public scoping meetings; three options came out of those efforts, but he would concentrate on the third, which looks to boost access and recreation while at the same time designating new wilderness zones and increasing ecological restoration efforts.

Galipeau described how the Park Service would like to designate the middle and west portions of Anacapa Island as wilderness areas and build two Coast Guard facilities in the footprints of old buildings. On Santa Rosa Island, the 136-mile road system would be reduced to around 70 miles under the proposed plan and open up to jeep tours, Galipeau said. Some of the historic and non-historic buildings would be refurbished and turned into overnight housing, a visitor contact center, and a small store, Galipeau added. At San Miguel Island, visitors would be able to fly onto an existing landing strip instead of only being able to boat to the island, and the Park Service would open a dry lake bed as a spike camp location.

A view from East Anacapa Island
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

A view from East Anacapa Island

For Santa Cruz Island, the agency hopes to improve and reorient the picnic and campground areas at Scorpion Anchorage, remove some of the nonnative eucalyptus, restore wetlands, add bathrooms, and turn the temporary housing into permanent structures. Galipeau also explained that three companies currently offer guided kayak tours off Santa Cruz’s coastline and sea caves and that a plan for a competitive bidding process for the concession would designate a single franchisee; a converted bunkhouse at the anchorage could be used as an office, Galipeau explained, and the concessionaire could offer snorkeling excursions, too. The cap on the number of visitors in the area would remain the same, he added. The Park Service also proposes a primitive campsite at Smugglers Cove and a duplex for a ranger and maintenance worker at Prisoners Harbor.

Some of the proposals with the most impact to the islands were met with outright indignation by a few audience members, who complained that the archipelago would suffer from too much public access and exposure. “What is the compulsion to give people what they want to the detriment of the park?” one man asked. “We can’t treat this like our own backyard that no one else can enjoy,” another audience member countered. The full plan is available here; comments are accepted until January 9, 2014.

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