New Staircase Allows Anacapa Island At Channel Islands National Park to Reopen To Public

Channel Islands National Park crews have finally been able to replace this badly deteriorated staircase (top photo) leading up to Anacapa Island. A helicopter was used to haul the new staircase to the island. The island could reopen to the public as soon as tomorrow. NPS photos.

It took about three months longer than anticipated, but a new staircase is in place at Anacapa Island at Channel Islands National Park, and so the public will again be able to visit this island off the California coast.

In fact, the island, which has been closed to the public since June, could be ready for visitors this Saturday.

The old staircase needed to be replaced because corrosion had 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. The problem in replacing the staircase was the lack of a crane to lift the new 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.

Back in July park Superintendent Russell E. Galipeau Jr. said the new staircase could be in place shortly after Labor Day. Part of the extended delay, according to Channel Islands officials, was the contracting process they had to go through to get the job done. But earlier this week the new staircase was dangled into place by a Skycrane heavy-lift helicopter contracted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“We are indebted to the expertise in managing this project provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” said Superintendent Galipeau. “We are very pleased that the island will be open for visitors just in time for whale watching and wildflower season.”

The Army Corps partnered with the Park Service to manage the contract for replacing the island staircase. The contractor, Cutting Edge Concrete Services, Inc., used a heavy-lift helicopter to remove the old staircase and to fly out the new staircase from the Ventura Harbor to Anacapa Island.

Flight operations on the island went smoothly as the helicopter hovered and lowered the
stairs into position using about 150 feet of cable, according to a park release. Crews then planned to anchor the staircase using bolts and epoxy into the island cliff wall. The island was to be reopened to the public once these anchor points are set and the staircase passes final inspection.

The new aluminum staircase was designed to complement the look of the original staircase that was originally installed by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1932. Minor modifications were made to improve traffic flow and safety railings. The new staircase is expected to have a longer lifespan than the steel unit it is replacing, according to park officials.

This staircase provides the only access to the 200-foot-high cliffs of this volcanic island.