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San Fernando
Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Channel Island Dreams for Everyone

Almost 40 years ago, I took my first charter flight to Santa Cruz Island on Jan. 1, 1975. This flight led to the founding and naming of my business, Channel Islands Aviation. Then, four years later, my beautiful wife, Janie, and I were the first couple in recorded history to be married on Santa Cruz Island. We were married Feb. 10, 1979, and all our guests were flown out for the wedding. In the late 1980s and early 1990s we ran a fly-in guest ranch operation at the Christy Ranch on the West end of Santa Cruz Island. Since that first flight, Channel Islands Aviation has expanded to offer private and professional flight training, aircraft sales and rentals, executive jet charter flights and fixed-base operation services, in addition to our signature flights to the islands of the Channel Islands National Park. In the middle 1990s the park closed the airstrip on east Santa Cruz Island for no apparent reason and our concession agreement with the National Park Service since the closure has been limited to flying the public to Santa Rosa Island only. We believe the public should have the option to again fly to Santa Cruz Island to enjoy water sports, hiking and camping. Every year, 40,000 to 50,000 people visit Santa Cruz Island, travelling by boat to Scorpion Ranch, which is located on the island’s east end. In contrast, only 1,600 travel by boat to Santa Rosa Island. We take an additional 1,000 people to Santa Rosa annually, combined that still does not come close to the demand for Santa Cruz Island. There is a large segment of the public who do not care for boats or get seasick. We would like to give those people an option to fly. Santa Cruz Island is less than a 15-minute flight away from the Camarillo Airport, so passengers would pay a fraction of the cost they now pay to fly to Santa Rosa Island, west of Santa Cruz Island. That’s our goal – to give the public the option to fly to the east end of Santa Cruz Island. The airstrip at Smugglers Ranch would be particularly useful for people wanting to visit the newly remodeled historic adobe at Smugglers Cove. The adobe sits idle most of the year because it is too long of a walk from Scorpion Ranch for most visitors to enjoy. Park officials had indicated they would include an option of reopening the airstrip for public access as part of their General Management Plan, which outlines how the park will be used over the next 25 to 40 years. However, the Channel Islands National Park recently released this plan, and unfortunately, did not include the option to reopen the airstrip. (See the plan at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/ projectHome.cfm?projectID=11063) Neither concessionaire – Channel Islands Aviation or Island Packers, which operates the boat service to and from the islands – was consulted or interviewed as part of the plan development. The Nature Conservancy, which co-owns the majority (76 percent) of Santa Cruz Island with the National Park Service was not contacted either. Senior members of the island community, who have decades of experience, also were not contacted. So, we are petitioning to reopen the airstrip on the east end of Santa Cruz Island, and we need help. If park officials could be convinced to reopen the airstrip, Channel Islands Aviation could not only carry on its 40-year history, it could provide alternate access for the public to Santa Cruz Island. We believe the public deserves an airplane transportation option. To comment, please visit http://parkplanning.nps.gov/chis. Mark Oberman and his wife Janie own Channel Islands Aviation, a Camarillo company that provides private and professional flight training, aircraft sales and rentals, charter flights and fixed-base operation services. To learn more about our petition, call (805) 987-1301, or visit www.flycia.com.

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