Pictured: A pod of Risso’s dolphins in the waters off Anacapa Island. Photo by Warren Barrett

by Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer


On March 5, 1980, U.S. President Jimmy Carter signed Public Law 96-199, officially establishing Channel Islands National Park (CINP), encompassing five islands — Anacapa, Santa Barbara, San Miguel, Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa islands — off the coast of California, as well as the waters within one nautical mile of each island. It was the culmination of nearly 50 years of efforts (from a variety of players) to bring attention to and preserve this precious island and marine ecosystem.

This week, the nation’s 40th national park commemorates its 40th anniversary with events on March 5 and 7, and invites the public to join in the festivities.

Celebrations begin on Thursday, March 5, with a lecture by CINP Superintendent Ethan McKinley, who will speak to where the park is now, and what the future holds. The lecture will start at 7 p.m. at the Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center at Ventura Harbor. McKinley will give his lecture again as part of the CINP’s all-day celebration on Saturday, March 7.

The far side of Anacapa Island. Photo by Warren Barrett

Get to the center early to take advantage of the native plant sale, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Those who have had the pleasure of walking through the garden in front of the center know that it’s one of the finest collections of native plants in the area. Shoppers will find inspiration while purchasing the items necessary to create their own native gardens at home.

In addition to McKinley’s lecture, other talks will be offered on Saturday. Dr. Jonathan Hoffman of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History will discuss the recently discovered sea cow fossil from Santa Rosa Island, and Julie Tumamait-Stenslie, chairperson of the Barbareno / Ventureno Band of Mission Indians — and a descendant of the native peoples that once populated the islands — will share Chumash storytelling.

Film fans will want to check out the 2016 documentary, ***West of the West: Tales from California’s Channel Islands. The documentary examines the history and people of the islands, and segments will be screened at the center throughout the day. In addition, CINP will offer a variety of crafts and interactive programs for kids as well as dock tours of the vessels used by National Park Service biologists.

Channel Islands National Park is one of our region’s most important ecosystems, offering a thriving kelp forest, rich waters that support migratory and other species and a safe environment in which marine mammals and birds can breed. It’s like nowhere else on Earth. This weekend, let’s celebrate our luck in having it right here.

Channel Islands National Park’s 40th anniversary celebrations take place March 5 and 7 at the Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center, 1901 Spinnaker Drive in Ventura Harbor. For more information, call 805-658-5730 or visit www.nps.gov/chis. For schedule of events, visit www.venturaharborvillage.com/event/channel-islands-national-park-celebrates-40-years/.