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Experiencing Catalina’s Beauty while Giving Back to the Island

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Catalina Island Conservancy

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AVALON, Calif. – One of the best ways to experience Catalina’s beauty is to volunteer, and the Catalina Island Conservancy offers many opportunities for residents and visitors.

Two ongoing volunteer opportunities offer the chance to view magnificent landscapes and possibly spot some of the Island’s wildlife while traveling to the destinations of the monthly windward beach cleanups and the weekly workdays at the James H. Ackerman Native Plant Nursery.

A Conservancy-trained naturalist will be your guide as you take a beautiful morning drive through Middle Canyon to one of the stunning windward beaches to comb through the sand for debris.  The beach cleanups are every second Saturday of the month, and they include Ben Weston, Cottonwood, Little Harbor and Shark Harbor.  Transportation is provided, leaving Avalon at 9 a.m. and returning by 1 p.m.  Everyone wants a clean beach!

Or you can join Whitey Mendenhall at 7:30 a.m. on Thursdays in Avalon for the drive to the native plant nursery in Middle Ranch. Volunteers return by noon that day.

“It’s nice to get away from the day-to-day hub-bub in town,” said Whitey.  “I enjoy driving through the interior and seeing the different scenery and how it changes throughout the year.”

Whitey has been a volunteer for the Conservancy for 22 years and has been escorting volunteers weekly to the nursery for 20 years, which he says he thoroughly enjoys.

“It’s nice to see the progress of the plants from week to week,” he said.

Whitey is known for enthusiastically encouraging growth of his newly planted seeds by telling them to, “Grow baby grow!”  In his honor, the Conservancy created a Whitey Mendenhall Grow Baby Grow Award, which is presented each year to a volunteer who has been most instrumental in assisting at the nursery.

Venturing out with Whitey provides an excellent opportunity to enjoy the wildlands and become more familiar with Island ecology and plant species. It’s also a chance to work with plants in a relaxed, social environment.

“It is good therapy to be away from the normal jobs in town,” said Whitey.  “I enjoy the companionship with other people, going out into the interior and pointing out some of the plant life along the way.”

For those interested in helping out in Avalon, the Conservancy has many events that rely in volunteers for their success, including the Conservancy Ball in April, Catalina Film Festival in September, marathons throughout the year, the Underwater Cleanup in February and Earth Day in April.  

As if volunteering isn’t rewarding enough, every hour of volunteer time is equal to 50 cents in credit that can be exchanged for any gift in the Conservancy’s Explore Store.  Among the gifts are Wildlands Express shuttle passes, Jeep Eco-Tours and memberships that include Free-Wheeler bike passes in the interior.

In 2014, Conservancy volunteers devoted more than 19,000 hoursin 2014 to protecting and restoring the 88% of the Island under the Conservancy’s stewardship.  The Conservancy relies on volunteers to help accomplish its mission. Please join us! 

To learn more or volunteer for the Conservancy, please contact Lesly Leiberman at least 48 hours before the volunteer opportunity by calling 310-510-2595 ext. 112 or emailing

By Lesly Lieberman
Lesly Lieberman is the Conservancy’s individual volunteer coordinator. To learn more, please visit

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Catalina Island Conservancy


Catalina Island Conservancy

The Catalina Island Conservancy was formed in 1972 and is one of California’s oldest land trusts. Its mission is to be a responsible steward of its lands through a balance of conservation, education and recreation. The Conservancy protects the magnificent natural and cultural heritage of Santa Catalina Island, stewarding approximately 42,000 acres of land, 62 miles of rugged shoreline and more than 80 miles of trails. It operates the Airport in the Sky, Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden and two nature centers. Twenty miles from the mainland, the Island is home to more than 60 plant and animal species found nowhere else in the world. - Watch Video

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