A field trip to Channel Islands National Park is a rite of passage for Ventura County students, and I fondly recall my first voyage to Anacapa with classmates about 30 years ago. But since the faltering economy has limited what schools and parents can afford to spend on excursions, a private charity has stepped in to help.
Channel Islands Restoration is focused on planting native vegetation and removing invasive species like ice plant on all eight Channel Islands, as well as the mainland coastline. It also organizes island field trips for local schools. It’s always seeking grants and donations to help educate kids about the environment.
Executive director Ken Owen says they sponsored 27 school field trips this year, and also help prepare kids for the trip. “We actually work with them in the classroom ahead of time with environmental education that consists of talking about ocean pollution, the connection between our watersheds and our city streets and the ocean, and even how that pollution affects animals on the islands. So the kids learn about the consequences of dumping trash in our streets and our storm drains, and then they actually get to go out to the Channel Islands,” says Owen.
A trip to Anacapa is both exciting and educational, according to Owen. “It’s really great because we’re targeting low-income school districts, and these are mostly kids who have never been on a boat in their entire lives, or even visited a national park. They get an opportunity to take a field trip and see marine mammals, dolphins, whales, and then visit these gorgeous islands right off of our coast,” says Owen. “They get a chance to visit there and actually help heal the islands and make them better, by working on a service project, either removing ice plant or planting native plants. And also they get a good opportunity to tour the island and have a fun day.”
Owen grew up in Simi Valley and also remembers his first trip to the islands with his school. He’s encouraging local businesses to sponsor trips. “It’s impossible for schools to afford a trip to Anacapa anymore, and it’s sad because a lot of us had a chance to do that when we were kids, and now that kind of field trip is just out of reach,” says Owen. “It’s both a bus and a boat ride, and by the time you add that up for a class of 30 kids and some chaperones, it equals a couple thousand dollars. That’s just too expensive for them, so that’s one of the things we do is, raise the money to make that possible. And it’s not easy.”
The group also welcomes adults to join them on frequent restoration projects, including ones to Anacapa where they usually get a free ride on park service vessels. It has a native plant nursery on Anacapa where it grows things like giant coreopsis. The group plans, by 2016, to remove from east Anacapa Island all the ice plant by 2016 that was planted by the Coast Guard during the 1930s for erosion control.
It also recently completed a project to remove ice plant from the banks of a creek at Carpinteria State Beach and plant native riparian species. “Right away, after we started planting, we noticed some of the native birds hunting insects in our plants,” says Owen. “That’s exactly the kind of thing we want to see happen.”
More information on opportunities to help with the mission is available on the Internet at www.cirweb.org