Limited availability of center to the general public on weekends a significant concern for county leaders.
VENTURA — Having a venue built, at taxpayer expense, to promote boating but not open to the general public during weekend hours in June, July and August defeats the purposes of having such a venue in the first place, the Ventura Board of Supervisors said about the Channel Islands Boating Center in Oxnard.
The Channel Island Boating Center, operated by California State University Channel Islands (CSUCI) staff, opened in 2013. The center has since offered youth classes and adult lectures, as well as on-the-water activities teaching visitors how to boat, kayak or paddleboard, among other activities.
Supervisors were less worried, however, about the center’s use and instead urged university staff to keep Channel Islands Boating Center open to the public on weekends.
“I have concerns,” said Supervisor Steve Bennett. “A big thing we were trying to do was create access for low-income kids to be able to experience things that high-income kids could experience. A [boating center] that is closed on the weekends doesn’t feel like access at all.”
The Channel Islands Boating Center is closed on Saturdays to the general public because of staffing issues associated with CSUCI, according to Harbor Director Lyn Krieger.
Bennett said the Channel Islands Boating Center is a major asset for the community and should be made available to the general public on weekends.
“Why does it have to be a staffing issue for the university,” he asked Krieger.
He also asked whether the center could be open to the public between Wednesday and Sunday so people could visit on a weekend.
The Channel Islands Boating Center does offer programming on Saturdays during the academic year, which runs from September to May. However summer camps dominate the summer months, meaning weekend programming is almost non-existent to the general public.
Other supervisors were also apprehensive, stating they expected more out of the Channel Islands Boating Center considering efforts to bring the venue online.
“We should be doing something with this thing. It’s a lot of money and a lot of time [spent],” Supervisor Peter C. Foy told his colleagues.
Foy wondered whether the Channel Islands Boating Center was being operated at the convenience of the university.
Linda Parks, the board’s chair, said both the university and county must look at all alternatives to make the Channel Islands Boating Center as accessible as possible.
“The university is subject to … financial issues and what comes from the state but we have to have some kind of requirement that we have the access, that we have it open,” said Parks. “Whether there’s a new type of partnership or looking at a docent program or some we that we can provide what is always been anticipated.”
Carolyn Dahl, CSUCI, explained the center is a work in progress.
“Our programming has increased over the years. This is our first facility that’s on the water so there has been a learning curve,” Dahl told supervisors. “It’s just a matter of time before we figure out how to fully utilize [the center].”
The county could look into adding other operators at the Channel Islands Boating Center to maximize the venue’s use.
“We need to think realistically about what operators are out there that are going to provide this dream list we have for operations at [the Boating Center],” Supervisor Kathy I. Long told her colleagues.
Foy said CSUCI officials should provide detailed plans (as opposed to stating what they would hope to do) to supervisors.
“This is a business opportunity and what we’re trying to do is get the community involved,” Foy told university and boating center representatives. “What is that plan? What are we going to do? Show us what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it.”
CSUCI is open to working with other partners at the Channel Islands Boating Center, Celina Zacharias, the university’s director of community and government relations, told supervisors.
“We’re here to service the community. We’re built on partnerships,” Zacharias told supervisors.
Several students and local groups have taken advantage of Channel Islands Boating Center since it became operational in 2013, according to a staff report by Krieger.
“The [center] offered summer classes to area young people aged 8 to 15, and included sailing, paddleboarding, kayaking, and other marine activities. These summer sessions have generally been sold out,” Krieger wrote in her staff report. “The Oxnard College Marine Center has made use of the facilities to teach water quality testing and classes in marine wildlife, among other topics.”
She added more than 120 local elementary school teachers were trained at Channel Islands Boating Center to incorporate a marine science curriculum into their own classrooms.
The CSUCI sailing team trains at Channel Islands Boating Center.
Supervisors weighed in on the center’s activities after they were asked to approve an operating agreement with CSUCI to operate the boating venue. The board will revisit the operating agreement after the university presents to the county a detailed plan of how CSUCI would maximize the use of the center and make it more accessible to the general public on weekends.