Channel Islands Park Marks Milestone, Plans for Growth


As the Channel Islands National Park reaches its 10th anniversary, the new man at the helm plans a dramatic change in course.

Charles (Mack) Shaver, superintendent since November of the five-island park, hopes to acquire the last addition of parkland by the year's end.

That should conclude what he called the acquisition phase of the Channel Islands National Park, which has preoccupied its management since the park's creation in 1980.

Now, Shaver said, a new challenge commands his attention and the expertise of park rangers.

"In the next 10 years, we want to get up to speed on managing the park resources," said Shaver, who served as chief ranger at Channel Islands in 1975, before the area was upgraded from national monument status to a national park.

"We need to understand a lot more about the marine ecosystem, what animals are here and what kind of shape are they in," Shaver said.

The second decade in the life of the 390-square-mile park will also see more visitors, with more trails, visitor centers and camping spots, Shaver said.

He said he sees a large part of his challenge as keeping the increased use of the park in harmony with the islands and their plant and animal life.

"The feeling on the islands is very close to the natural environment, and that's the kind of experience we want to offer," Shaver said. "The Catalina Island experience is also a valuable one, but we already have that and we don't want to duplicate it here."

Shaver and his park will host the public and dignitaries Friday, Saturday and Sunday at a 10th anniversary party designed to showcase the park lands and the visitors' center at park headquarters at the Ventura Harbor.

Rep. Robert J. Lagomarsino (R-Ojai), whose 1980 bill made the monument a park, heads the list of celebrants.

"I'm sort of the godfather of the park," Lagomarsino said from his Santa Barbara office this week. "I sponsored the legislation to create the park and have been working ever since to get the funding to acquire the rest of the land."

Since 1980, three islands have been added to the park--San Miguel, which is owned by the Navy; Santa Rosa, acquired by the U.S. Park Service, and Santa Cruz, 90% of which is owned by the Nature Conservancy. The Nature Conservancy, a private, nonprofit agency dedicated to preserving endangered species, bought the land in 1987 when the previous owner, Dr. Carey Stanton, died. The conservancy conducts nature walks and tours on the island.

Lagomarsino is lobbying to keep $17 million in President Bush's budget to buy the last remaining privately owned land on Santa Cruz. The final appropriation decision will be made in October, he said.

Because of the accessibility of Santa Cruz, only about 22 miles from shore, the island's east end will become the main day-use spot for visitors when it is acquired, Shaver said.

The park also has plans to build campgrounds there for overnight stays and increase the number of boat trips available to bring people to the park.

Part of the national parks mandate is to return the islands to their natural state. Shaver will continue the park's program of rounding up and destroying the feral sheep and pigs still remaining on the islands.

He plans to set limits on the numbers of visitors allowed on each island and to continue monitoring the progress of the peregrine falcons and brown pelicans, which nest on the islands. Their populations were nearly destroyed in the 1970s when the pesticide DDT made eggs too fragile to support the chicks.

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