Public to Enjoy New Visitor Center and Exhibits on Santa Cruz Island

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Date: April 6, 2009
Contact: Yvonne Menard, 805-658-5725

The National Park Service (NPS) announces today the opening and dedication of the Scorpion Ranch Visitor Center and additional exhibits located on East Santa Cruz Island within Channel Islands National Park.

The visitor center will serve as an information, orientation, and interpretive center for over 50,000 visitors to Scorpion Valley each year—the most visited location among the five islands that make up the park.

“Creation of a visitor center at Scorpion Ranch provides a much needed, convenient facility to orient visitors to Santa Cruz Island,” said Channel Islands National Park Superintendent Russell Galipeau. “They will learn about the island’s tremendous biodiversity and rich cultural history, as well as current resource issues.”

An orientation kiosk welcomes visitors to the national park with information panels and a topographic relief map to acquaint them with Santa Cruz Island. Displays highlight a variety of recreational opportunities; provide safety tips for water sports, hiking, and camping; and suggest ways to limit impacts on wildlife. 

Near the orientation kiosk is the historic blacksmith shop which features the tools of the blacksmith trade, stories of island ranching, and information about some of the over-100-year-old ranch buildings still found in the Scorpion Valley.

The new visitor center—located in the historic Scorpion ranch house, a large masonry building constructed in the 1886 that served as the dining room, kitchen, and dormitory for the ranch hands —has exhibits that fill two rooms of the ranch house and an adjacent bakery.

The visitor center exhibits include large photo murals on the Island Chumash, island isolation, and the marine environment. Audio video feature the turbulent geologic history of the Channel Islands, the Chumash birthplace legend and seafaring lifestyle, intimate first- person accounts of island ranching, and footage of historic sheep shearing and restoration efforts.

The ranch kitchen contains the island’s original stove and cabinets and is filled with artifacts, historic photographs, and other materials donated by former Santa Cruz Island landowner John Gherini. Instrumental in planning the exhibits, Gherini shares family stories of spending summers working at the island ranch, building fences, herding sheep, and sacking wool through a replica of the island phone system.

Ceramic floor tiles illustrate a timeline that begins 8,000 years ago with the earliest evidence of human life on Santa Cruz Island and extends to 2007 when the NPS and The Nature Conservancy removed the last non-native mammals as part of an island restoration program. Listed on the last tile is a Chumash phrase that decribes their relationship to the island, “I sari wa”, which means it will continue indefinitely.

The bakery next door completes the displays, interpreting the finely crafted masonry bake oven—a reminder of the bread baked daily as a staple of the Italian and French immigrants who worked on the island. The displays also describe how the bakery is now important habitat for the endangered Townsends big-eared bat.

The visitor center and surrounding exhibits were made possible through recreational fees collected at national park sites and designated by Congress to be used to improve public facilities in national parks. The exhibits were designed by Aldridge Pears Associates, a design firm from Vancouver, BC, and fabricated and installed by Exhibitology in New Jersey.

Santa Cruz Island is jointly managed by the NPS and The Nature Conservancy. At 96 square miles—nearly three times the size of Manhattan—the varied island topography supports habitats for approximately 60 plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. Santa Cruz has rugged mountain ranges, deep canyons with year-round springs and streams, and a rocky coastline with pristine tidepools and expansive beaches.


Last updated: February 27, 2015

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