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Iconic National Park Off Ventura, Santa Barbara County Coastlines Celebrates 40th Birthday

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When you think of National Parks, places like Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon might come to mind. But, one of the most unique ones is right here in our backyard. In fact, hundreds of thousands of people literally drive by it every single day. It’s Channel Islands National Park. The park is celebrating it’s 40th birthday.

Channel Islands National Park Superintendent Ethan McKinley calls its an often overlooked gem which is here in our backyard. The National Park includes five of the eight Channel Islands, and is home to some plants and animals found nowhere else in the world.

Bill Ehorn was Superintendent of Channel Islands National Monument in the 1970’s, and was instrumental in it becoming a National Park in 1980. He says the Park Service first started looking at the islands as a possible National Park in the early 1930’s. It was decided that they were worthy, but because they are so isolated anyway, it was felt they could wait and they ended up low on the priority list. In 1938, two of the islands received protection as a National Monument.

But, for decades they received little attention aside from a ranger being assigned to them during spring and summer months. Ehorn admits it was a long process to expand the national monument into a national park. Huge chunks of the islands land were owned by ranchers who had lived there for decades, so some deals had to be reached.

A number of bills to create a national park out of the islands went nowhere in the 1940’s, 50’s, and 60’s.

But, with the help of Republican Congressman Bob Lagomarsino of Ventura, on March 5th, 1980 the Channel Islands became America’s 40th National Park. It went from two islands, to five islands, as well as the waters within one nautical mile of each island.

Over the decades the park has become known not just for efforts to preserve it, but to restore its native habitat. They are considered a global example of what can be done to restore what humans have damaged. Wildlife from the island fox to bald eagles is again flourishing in its native habitat.

Current Channel Islands National Park Superintendent Ethan McKinley says they do a balancing act of sorts. They want people to visit the park, but also don’t want it to be overrun. He admits it’s also a little frustrating, because even though the park is visible right off our coastline, many people have little awareness of it.

The park is celebrating its 40th birthday with a string of free family friendly events Saturday, at the visitor’s center at Ventura Harbor.