What should Channel Islands National Park look like 50 years from now? Should the islands be easier to visit and explore? Should there be jeep tours? Should there be a small hotel and café out there? More campgrounds? More trails? More research facilities?
These and every other question about the archipelago, which is located across the Santa Barbara Channel and known as “California’s Galapagos,” are being pondered right now, as the National Park Service seeks feedback on the long-term management plan for the park, one of the nation’s most pristine yet least visited. The environmental report on that plan was recently released, offering three alternatives: the first would do nothing different, the second would enhance the protection of natural and cultural resources, and the third, which is currently the preferred alternative, would enhance those protections while also boosting access, educational, and recreational opportunities. The plan, which has been under development since 2001, will also designate large portions of the islands as official wilderness areas, meaning that development would be blocked there.
“The National Park Service really needs public input on this planning process,” said park spokesperson Yvonne Menard. “It’s an important time for people to make their comments, and it’s fairly easy to do.” Comments can be submitted via the Internet, through the mail, or in person at one of the upcoming meetings on Tuesday, December 3, 6-8 p.m. at the park’s visitor center in the Ventura Harbor or on Wednesday, December 4, 6-8 p.m., at the Santa Barbara Public Library.
Though visitor numbers at the islands are still low compared to other, more easily accessible national parks, Menard did say that visitation has steadily increased, especially on the outer islands of Santa Rosa and San Miguel, thanks in part to the addition of a third boat by the Ventura-based concessionaire Island Packers. “They’re kind of infectious,” said Menard. “Once you visit, you’re locked in for life. Each island has its own face. It’s like having five individual national parks in one.” Go here to see the plan and learn more.