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Aera grant brings people closer to nature

A new campground near Prisoners Harbor enables visitors to enjoy Channel Islands National Park

When Aera Engineering Supervisor Linda Mohammad isn’t leading her team in finding new ways to produce oil, or inspiring young people to explore STEM careers through volunteer work, she’s a self-proclaimed national “park geek” – having explored every single one of the 63 big national parks across the United States over the last seven years.

Aera Engineering Supervisor Linda Mohammad poses for a picture while taking in the beauty of Channel Islands National Park.

She holds a soft spot in her heart for Ventura County’s Channel Islands National Park — never thinking much about the brown sign for the park she’d drive past to get to Aera-Ventura for work. It was before she became interested in visiting national parks. Thinking back, she wishes she would have visited sooner so she could have spent more time enjoying it when she worked nearby in Ventura.

Now, Mohammad serves on the board of directors for the Channel Islands Park Foundation (CIPF), a group that’s dedicated to supporting the national park. In recent years, the foundation has been working on building a new campground on Santa Cruz Island – one of the park’s five islands – and that dream is finally becoming a reality.

The CIPF has been planning to build a small, primitive campground near Prisoners Harbor on the west side of the island (named for the dozens of prisoners being offloaded on the island to perform odd jobs back in 1830) since 2015 when it was approved as part of the park’s general management plan. The campgrounds should be ready for visitors late summer of this year.

“This will enable visitors to enjoy the beauty of nature overnight that is so close to the mainland, yet so far and remote from the busyness of day-to-day life,” Mohammad said.

The campground will consist of seven campsites with a capacity of up to 24 people who can stay overnight in tents. One of the campsites will be ADA accessible – with an accessible picnic table and storage box. A new vault toilet will also be added to the campground.

“Sleeping under the stars at Santa Cruz is amazing,” said Ventura resident Marcella Klein Williams who is excited about the campground. “Gazing across the channel to Southern California you can mostly just see the mountains and the shore with faint outlines of the lives of millions. It reminds me of how small I am and how beautiful our world is every single day no matter which side of the channel we stand on.”

Channel Island National Park is comprised of Santa Cruz, Anacapa, San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Barbara islands – all of which are accessible from the Ventura harbor via a boat ride. More than 320,000 people visited the Channel Islands National Park last year. The new campground gives visitors the chance to enjoy the beauty of Santa Cruz Island all day and night.

“It will provide needed campground capacity in our local and remote national park for hikers, snorkelers, kayakers, and nature lovers in general from Ventura County and all around the world,” said Oak View resident John Wickenhaeuser, who also serves as the president of the foundation. “It will allow many more visitors to experience the wonder that is Channel Islands National Park while having a remote, intimate camping experience.”

Aera employee representatives present a $10,000 check to board members of the Channel Islands Park Foundation at a fundraising event for a new campground site at Santa Cruz Island.

The Fund for People in Parks, CIPF and the National Park Service provided a majority of the $141,000 project cost, and the remaining half came through donations. Aera provided the final $10,000 to make it happen.

“Aera’s commitment to building strong communities means we work every day to help protect the environment and preserve California’s natural resources for everyone to enjoy for generations to come,” said Mohammad. “We’re proud to have a role in helping families have a safe place to connect, camp under the stars and experience the beauty of California throughout the day and night.”

Klein Williams added, “Instead of the island being a backdrop, a stay out there makes it real and a treasured part of our lives to preserve and protect. Because of these donations, future generations will make their own memories and stand at the shore at sunrise when the world is quiet and only the natural world speaks.”

To support the Channel Islands Park Foundation’s new campground at Prisoner’s Harbor, click here.

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