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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

8,000 Acres of Santa Cruz Island Donated

Gift: Nature Conservancy agrees to transfer the property to Channel Islands National Park.

March 28, 2000|HOLLY J. WOLCOTT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In a move that will open up miles of rugged hiking trails, a wide sandy beach and access to a pier, the nonprofit Nature Conservancy has agreed to give 8,000 acres of land on Santa Cruz Island to the Channel Islands National Park, it was reported Monday.

The terms of the deal have not been finalized, but officials on both sides say the land transfer could be completed within a few weeks. Negotiations have been taking place since early 1998.

"It will allow public access to a much larger area of the island and it will allow the Park Service to start restoration of the natural ecosystem," Carol Spears, a spokeswoman for the national park, said Monday night.

With the gift, the Channel Islands National Park will more than double its holdings on the island from its current size of about 6,000 acres.

The island's total acreage is about 63,000 and the Nature Conservancy owns about 90%, or 57,000 acres, Spears said. The conservancy bought the land from a Los Angeles doctor in 1978 for $2.5 million.

As part of the deal, the Park Service will assume operation of Prisoner's Harbor on the island's eastern side, which includes a pier that has been closed due to disrepair.

The Park Service plans to rebuild the pier, which will serve as a point of free public access to the expanded parkland, according to a written statement by Tim Setnicka, the national park's superintendent.

"Prisoner's Harbor is a very popular destination for people who are sailing," Spears said. "The fact that the Park Service will own the pier and completely redo it means it will be safe and available for public use."

Spears said no decision has been made yet about whether the public will be allowed to camp overnight on the soon-to-be-acquired land on the island 22 miles off the Ventura County coast. She said, though, that Park Service officials plan to restore the area's natural ecosystem, which has been damaged by wild pigs and nonnative vegetation.

Santa Cruz, the largest of the Channel Islands, is 23.5 miles long and 7.5 miles wide at its center.

It is considered the most roughhewn and topographically diverse of the northern islands--boasting a 2,470-foot volcanic peak, jagged canyons, rich pine forests, and majestic coves with more than 100 sea caves.

When the 8,000 acres is opened to the public, visitors will be able to venture to a more mountainous region of the island covered with lush plants.

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Times staff writer Hilary E. MacGregor contributed to this story.

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