VENTURA (CBSLA.com) — An uninhabited island with pristine beaches and trails is opening again, just 50 miles off the coast of Ventura.
National Park Service officials announced Wednesday that San Miguel Island, which was closed to the public in 2014, will reopen to visitors on May 17, just in time for the summer camping season.
San Miguel Island, which is owned by the U.S. Navy, was an active bombing range during World War II through the 1970s, National Park Service spokeswoman Yvonne Menard said. Over the past two years, the Navy had been conducted surveys on more than 18 miles of trails for possible unexploded ordinance, and none were ever found – however, 125 pounds of munition items, such as practice bombs, bomb fragments and fuses, have been removed from the island.
The ordinance clearance work paves the way for visitors to enjoy the island, which boasts 23 square miles of rocky coast, beaches and sand dunes, and is host to more than 1,000 seals and sea lions, making it the largest pinniped rookery in the world, Menard said.
San Miguel, which is the western-most island in the Channel Islands chain, has always had the fewest number of visitors because of the distance. When it was open, it would get about 1,000 visitors and just 100 campers a year, Menard said.
“It’s so remote, you take a step back in time to what California was like 100 years ago,” she said. “It’s quite a spectacular experience.”
The island’s reopening also comes with another way to get to the island, beside a half-day boat ride. Visitors can now fly to the island via Channel Islands Aviation, based at Camarillo Airport, which has been authorized for such trips on a trial basis.
Visitors to San Miguel Island must now sign an access permit and liability waiver, and as before, will be escorted by rangers beyond the ranger station and be limited to the established trail system.