A faulty staircase leading from the boat dock to the bluff-top of East Anacapa Island was determined to be unsafe this week, so officials with the Channel Islands National Park immediately shut down the island to public access and cannot yet say when the popular day-trip and camping destination will be re-opened. The staircase is the only way to access the rolling landscape that sits atop the island’s 200-foot-high cliffs, and serves as a homebase for dive trips, which have also been stopped for now. Frenchy’s Cove and the western stretches of Anacapa Island remain open to boaters, but very few of the island’s nearly 12,000 annual visitors — and none of the 600 annual campers — ever use those areas.
According to park spokesperson Yvonne Menard, there were already plans to replace the staircase, but that schedule was delayed about a month ago, when the island’s crane — which is an integral part of the staircase replacement project — was determined to be in need of repair. With the crane out of service, the park began monitoring of the staircase, which is anchored to the cliff wall in a number of places. This week, the check-up revealed that the staircase’s structural components were indeed breaking.
“As soon as you see that, there is no alternative but to shut it down,” said Menard, who once lived on the island herself as a ranger. “It’s very unfortunate. We’re a National Park and we’re all about connecting the public to the treasures out there. But it’s necessary to protect the public.”
As to a timeline, Menard said it’s too early to tell. “We’re going to do everything we can in as short a period as possible to get the repairs completed,” she explained. A contract to fix the crane was submitted and reviewed, so an expert will be going out to the island next week to take a look. “Hopefully after that visit, we’ll get a better sense of whether we can make repairs to the crane or whether it needs to be a complete replacement,” said Menard. “If it’s a complete replacement, there will be engineering involved.” And that means much more waiting for Anacapa fans, many of whom take advantage of the half-day trips offered to the island, which sits just 10 miles from the Oxnard coast and features some of the best vistas in the entire park.