Anacapa Island, which has been closed to Channel Islands National Park visitors since June due to unsafe access, could reopen after Labor Day if a crane can be obtained to help install a new landing staircase, according to the superintendent.
Corrosion has made the existing steel staircase that island visitors use to reach a set of concrete steps that lead to the top of a 200-foot cliff above the island's landing unsafe, Superintendent Russell Galipeau said Tuesday.
The park already has a replacement stainless steel staircase, one with aluminum handrails and safety infill panels. Unfortunately, crews currently have no way to install it, as a crane is needed to lift the staircase -- which is 31 feet tall and has five landings, including the top, along with 85 steps -- into place. While there long has been a crane atop the cliff, back in March it was deemed unsafe due to mechanical, structural, and electrical problems.
"What I’m doing right now is I’m working with the regional office and the (U.S.) Army Corps is helping us to assess what is it going to take to put together a scope of work to perhaps get a barge and a crane to come out and help us," Superintendent Galipeau said. "We have our fingers crossed that maybe we can get it open after Labor Day. But right now, no access to Anacapa Island through Labor Day.”
The superintendent said he condemned the existing crane, which the U.S. Coast Guard installed back in 1938, because of safety concerns. "We just don’t want to be operating, lifting stuff up that high, wondering if the boom is going to break, the cable is going to snap?” he said.
Anacapa Island long has been one of the more popular islands at the park, according to the superintendent. In part that's likely due to the fact that it lies just a dozen miles off California's coast.
In truth three small islands that combined cover only about 700 acres, Anacapa Island features towering sea cliffs, sea caves one can kayak into, and natural bridges, such as "40-foot Arch Rock—the symbol of Anacapa and Channel Islands National Park," notes the park's website.
On the island is a 1.5-mile-long trail that leads through vegetation that in spring features colorful wildflowers such as yellow coreopsis, red paintbrush, and island morning glories.
Wildlife also can be highly visible on the islands.
Seabirds are probably the most conspicuous wildlife on Anacapa Island. Thousands of birds use Anacapa as a nesting area because of the relative lack of predators on the island. While the steep cliffs of West Anacapa are home to the largest breeding colony of endangered California brown pelicans, all the islets of Anacapa host the largest breeding colony of western gulls in the world. Western gulls begin their nesting efforts at the end of April, sometimes making their shallow nests just inches from island trails. Fluffy chicks hatch in May and June and fly away from the nest in July.
The rocky shores of Anacapa are perfect resting and breeding areas for California sea lions and harbor seals. The raucous barking of sea lions can be heard from most areas of the island. Two overlooks (Cathedral Cove and Pinniped Point) provide excellent spots to look down on seals and sea lions in the island coves.