Visitors to Catalina Island have 27 miles of new options to leave Avalon behind and trek into the isle’s back country, thanks to a newly opened series of trails.
The trails were added as part of Imagine Catalina, a multidecade project to preserve the island and promote conservation among visitors. Offering visitors new incentives to leave Catalina’s tourist district to explore the back country fits nicely into that plan, said Suzy Gardner, chief development officer for the Catalina Island Conservancy.
Among those who make an estimated 1 million visits to Catalina each year, only about 20,000 make their way into the island’s 42,000 acres of open space, something the conservancy is trying to change.
The 76-square-mile island can be reached by a one-hour high-speed ferry ride from the Los Angeles or Orange County coast.
“We have to get people into the wildlands, so that’s the starting point is getting people out of Avalon,” Gardner said. “They’re not even aware that the trails exist or that hiking is available.”
Work on the new web of paths kicked off in October 2016, and added offshoots along the island’s existing hiking thoroughfares. Many of the new trails are formalized pathways made from unofficial footpaths cut by meandering hikers or wildlife.
Trekking Catalina, as the trail expansion was titled, originally was scheduled to finish this summer, but torrential rains earlier this year set back the finish date by several months. And while the downpours were undeniably a setback, most of the improved trails withstood the storm well, a good sign for their long-term stability, Gardner said.
The hiking paths that now crisscross the island were designed to offer a variety of options for visitors, and expand on the 38-mile Trans-Catalina Trail, which was previously one of the only a choices for travelers looking to explore open space.
The trails are now open for use, although bathrooms being built along the hiking routes won’t be finished until later this year, Gardner said.
Cinde MacGugan-Cassidy, an Avalon city councilwoman, recently bought Catalina Backcountry, a concierge service for outdoor enthusiasts looking for help procuring and transporting the supplies and equipment needed to explore the island’s wildlands.
The new hiking options are an opportunity to expand Catalina’s visitor base, an important economic element in the tourism-driven resort, she said.
“Certainly any time that you have something new it creates a buzz,” MacGugan-Cassidy said. “Each time you grow and you enhance, you have an opportunity to reach a …
Source:: The Mercury News – Lifestyle