Scorpion Cove, the most popular Santa Cruz Island destination, will be closed to the public for months while the National Park Service replaces the pier.
The closure will affect day trippers and campers starting Nov. 1, and the construction is expected to last six to nine months, according to Channel Islands National Park personnel.
Island Packers, the concessionaire whose boats ferry visitors to the islands from Ventura County, is scheduling trips to other Santa Cruz Island destinations during the closure. Prisoners Harbor and Painted Cave are alternatives.
There will be Scorpion Cove access between Dec. 21 and Jan. 5, 2020, using the existing pier, said Yvonne Menard, a park spokeswoman.
The cove will also be closed to boats during construction, but the nearby Little Scorpion anchorage will be open during the pier closure, so boats can moor there as usual.
Onshore Scorpion Canyon amenities of restrooms, campgrounds and visitor center will be closed during construction, she said.
“They will have a lot of activity occurring right in the heart of the valley for construction,” she said. “It’s not safe to have visitors in that proximity.”
Scorpion Pier, on the northeastern end of Santa Cruz Island, can’t be used during low tides, and requires visitors to climb ladders into and out of the Island Packers ferries.
Passengers form a bucket-brigade-style line to offload camping gear by passing items person to person along the pier gangway.
Menard said the new pier — which will be longer and wider than the existing structure — will be built to nearly line up with the access road that leads past restrooms and the visitor center.
“The existing Scorpion Pier was only intended as a temporary and relatively low cost solution for providing urgent access following the park service’s 1996 acquisition of the east end of the island,” according to the environmental review document for the new pier.
The closure is unfortunate, Menard said, “but the improvements will be a valuable asset for many years to come.”
Pier construction will have a big impact on Island Packers, since trips to Scorpion make up 85 percent of its business, co-owner Cherryl Connally said.
While she is excited for the new pier, she says it will take a lot of work for the company to get through the closure.
“They first anticipated it would only take three or four months,” she said. “Now it’s more than that and we’re being patient, you know, but we’re not happy.”
Connally plans to bring additional business to Prisoners Harbor, where there will be guided hikes and kayak tours, and schedule a lot of half-day and three-quarter-day wildlife cruises across the Santa Barbara Channel to the islands.
Island Packers will also take people to the Painted Cave area in the Nature Conservancy-owned portion of Santa Cruz Island, she said.
“It’s western Santa Cruz, way up on the tip, so they’ll get to see the whole north shore of the island,” Connally said.
While the closure shouldn’t affect November, December and January business too much — usually a slow period — springtime is a very busy time for Island Packers, she said.
“Spring is a very busy time for us,” she said. “It’s been the high peak of our season with the spring breaks so we will have to focus on some unique trips.”
Scorpion Cove area is the most visited destination in Channel Islands National Park, according to Menard.
— Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.