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Now two of Channel Island National Park's five islands are temporarily closed to visitors

Now two of Channel Island National Park's five islands are temporarily closed to visitors
Santa Rosa Island, which is located off the Santa Barbara coast, closed to visitors this week because of a drug-smuggling investigation. (Al Seib /Los Angeles Times)

Santa Rosa Island, part of Channel Islands National Park, is temporarily closed to visitors while park and law enforcement officials search for drug smugglers. It's the second island to be put off-limits this year.

The five-island national park, located off the coast of Ventura and Santa Barbara, announced Thursday that federal and local law enforcement found "numerous" bundles of marijuana on the island and were conducting an aerial and ground search, a news release says.

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The move was taken "to protect the public from potential harm," Park Superintendent Russell Galipeau says in the statement. The island will be reopened when the danger has passed.

Most visitors (aside from those who come by private boats, small plane or sea kayaks) get to the island on Ventura-based Island Packers Cruises. The closure affects about 73 visitors who were scheduled to travel to Santa Rosa Island this weekend.

Island Packers is working with booked visitors to refund their money or reschedule their trip.

The closure is the latest setback for the national park during the National Park Service's centennial year.

Santa Barbara Island closed to visitors in January after high surf destroyed the landing dock and snapped some of the pier pilings. No reopening date has been scheduled.

And Santa Cruz Island, by far the most popular destination, which sees about 90,000 visitors a year, also had its dock knocked out by stormy surf last December.

Scorpion Pier closed at the time, but the island remains open. Visitors now reach the island by taking a small skiff and landing on the beach. A repair plan is under way, but no reopening date for the pier has been announced.

So what's the outlook for this hard-to-get-to national park?

Galipeau, who has been superintendent of Channel Islands since 2003 and previously served as chief of natural and cultural resources at Yosemite National Park, will address that very topic at 7 p.m. Nov. 10 in a public lecture. 

He'll discuss management of Channel Islands as well as the biological and cultural values of the national park. The lecture takes place at Channel Islands National Park Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center, 1901 Spinnaker Drive in Ventura.

The national park, which also includes Anacapa and San Miguel islands, was created in 1980.

Info: Channel Islands National Park, (805) 658-5730

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