Catalina Island News

The Catalina Experience

2006-05-25
The Catalina Experience

Beginning this summer, there is a brand new opportunity for youth, families and the general public to enjoy Catalina Island and appreciate its beauty and ecological complexity. Visitors to Avalon, the only city on Catalina Island, may not be aware of Catalina's rich, natural beauty. Situated just 26 miles from mainland ports in L.A. and Long Beach, the island is a vast habitat for California native plants and animals, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. Much of the island is owned and cared for by the Catalina Island Conservancy, an organization dedicated to striking a balance among education, conservation and recreation on and around the island. One of the Conservancy's prime properties lies just between the two well-settled destinations on Catalina (Avalon and Two Harbors). It is called White's Landing and it has been leased to a non-profit organization called The Catalina Experience.

The Catalina Experience, or TCX, will help the Conservancy in their goals by doing something with White's Landing that has not been done in the past by more exclusive operators such as the Girls Scouts or the YMCA. TCX plans to run organized youth and family camps, but also cooperate with neighboring yacht clubs and the Conservancy to allow more casual access to the location.

Positioned on one of the island's most expansive beaches, White's Landing is a destination for thousands each summer who, until now, have not been able to venture beyond the sand. Beginning in late June, visitors will be able to take advantage of a new cafe, converted from the old YMCA dining hall, as well as a host of amenities including tent, kayak, and snorkeling equipment rentals and a beachfront snack bar. TCX also has a membership program for frequent visitors and Catalina enthusiasts.

TCX is the brainchild of four veteran outdoor education and youth camp professionals. Joel Cassara, Mimi Beltran, Megan Mochizuki and Eugene Anderson, all past camp directors for the Long Beach Marine Institute and its school programs at Catalina Island. Their collective experience (dating back to the mid-1980's) introducing kids and adults from all over the country to the natural wonders of Catalina and its surrounding waters has prepared them well for this new and exciting venture. "We know we are on to something very special." Says Anderson, currently the managing director of the project. "I am certain that everyone that comes here will have a wonderful experience. The proof is in our volunteer support. These folks come out here to help renovate White's, and they don't want to leave!"

Much of the volunteer base has come from the Cerritos Bahia Yacht Club in Long Beach, of which Anderson is a member and sits on the board of directors. "These ladies and gentlemen have been awesome. Many of them have taken time from work to help us build an extraordinary destination. They volunteer here because the believe in what we are doing."  The yacht club is not the only volunteer base. The Los Cerritos Wetlands Stewards, a habitat management organization based in Long Beach, has undertaken the Herculean task of clearing brush for fire code and cultivating native vegetation at no cost to TCX. "We welcome anyone who wants to volunteer and create their own Catalina Experience." Anderson says. Prospective volunteers should contact TCX via email at volunteer@thecatalinaexperience.com.

The Catalina Experience will be open all summer beginning June 26.