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PERSONAL STORIES
 
Conservancy Plant Ecologist photographing the extremely rare native ocean spray
Amy Bastida
Student
Student Rose Ellen Gardener Internship Program of the Catalina Island Conservancy 


Amy Bastida, 17, was in the Nature Center at Avalon Canyon showing her parents the many exhibits highlighting the Conservancys work to support, protect and restore the wildlands of Catalina Island. She was there to be honored as a Rose Ellen Gardner Intern (REGI) her second experience with the REGI program.  Suddenly, her eyes widened. "Thats me!" she exclaimed, pointing to a black-and-white photo of school kids touring the James H. Ackerman Native Plant Nursery. Sure enough, there was Amy in the second grade examining one of the hundreds of seedlings found at the nursery.  

Being a student in the Avalon Schools, Amy has had many chances to get out into the Islands Interior through field trips offered by the Conservancys Education Department.   Conservancy field trips take Avalon students out to see the rugged mountains, sweeping valleys and beautiful sandy beaches of the windward side of the Island. When Amy first heard about an internship with the Conservancy, she leapt at the chance to get out of Avalon and into nature. The beauty and quiet she experienced there reminded her of what a privilege it is to live in a place where nature is protected.   

"As an intern, I've now worked with all departments within the Conservancy, and I like them all equally." Having spent virtually her entire life on the Island, she is preparing to move to the mainland to attend Long Beach City College. She eventually would like a job with the Conservancy. "I enjoy working with children and one day would like to be in a position to take kids out hiking and show them the many wonderful things that I have seen in the Interior."  Amy says that while she is excited about college, she really doesnt want to leave - "I am so fortunate to live in such a special place. I will look forward to coming home." 

Conservancy Plant Ecologist photographing the extremely rare native ocean spray
Doug Bombard
Boater/Entrepreneur

If you have taken the Catalina Express to Catalina, or have visited the beautiful tile map of Catalina at the Conservancys Airport in the Skys Nature Center, you have experienced firsthand some of the Island legacy of legendary boater Doug Bombard. In 1981, Doug helped found Catalina Express as a fast, reliable way to reach the Island. So familiar was Doug with the Islands rugged coastline that he was called in by the Conservancy to consult on the iconic tile map of Catalina Island at the Airport to ensure the shoreline was accurate.

Doug recalls a simple question that he posed in 1960 to Philip K. Wrigley, President and CEO of the Santa Catalina Island Company, that might have been a precursor to formation of the Catalina Island Conservancy.

I was on Duke's (actor John Wayne's) yacht Norwester moored at Emerald Bay, for a home-cooked dinner of hot dogs and beans.
Duke knew I worked for the Island Company and asked it if would be possible to build a beach house or two at Emerald Bay for him and his friends. I took the message to Mr. Wrigley. Up until that point, the issue of private development on the Island outside of Avalon and Two Harbors had not come up.

I suspected that Mr. Wrigley had been thinking about the future of Catalina, because, almost immediately, he said that we shouldn't do anything until a Master Plan had been created for the Island.

The Master Plan for Catalina Island was completed in 1967, and to Dougs delight it called for a majority of the Island to remain undeveloped. Then in 1972, members of the Wrigley and Offield families established the Santa Catalina Island Conservancy to protect and restore the Island's wildlands.

Would there have been a Conservancy without Doug Bombard?

"I like to think that it was my question to Mr. Wrigley that started the ball in motion in the formation of the Catalina Island Conservancy," he says with a smile.

"I would have hated to see the Island developed like what's taken place on the mainland," he says. "Open space forever I think thats pretty neat."

Conservancy Plant Ecologist photographing the extremely rare native ocean spray
Eduardo Sotelo
Catalina Resident
Volunteer 


Eduardo Sotelo enjoys hiking up the Hermit Gulch Trail to the Divide Road and gazing across the Pacific Ocean where, on clear days, he can see San Clemente Island. He turns around to see the sparkling San Pedro Channel and the mainland in the distance. Its like therapy, watching the water on both sides of the Island.  Hiking down from the Summit Eduardo never ceases to notice the view: Its so very beautiful. He always wears a backpack so he can pick up any trash he might find along the road. "I am passionate about the Island," he said.  Eduardo came to Catalina in 1994 with his long-time love, Veronica. In 2002, the two married in the Casino Ballroom. In 2005, their daughter Jiselle was born.   

Eduardo recalls how Veronica had suggested they volunteer with the Conservancy. "We both loved the Island, the vegetation and all the living things of Catalina," he said. "It is for us to enjoy, and we wanted to take care of it." Eduardo works at C.C. Gallagher, an Avalon gourmet and specialty shop. He volunteers most every Thursday at the James H. Ackerman Native Plant Nursery. "I want to give back to the Island," he said. He and his brother have a 200-acre farm in the small town of La Piedad, just southwest of Guadalajara, Mexico, where Eduardo immigrated from. In Mexico, his brother educates people about the proper use of pesticides. "We both believe in keeping the environment healthy and natural, which is why I appreciate the work of the Conservancy."  In 2008, family circumstances dictated that his wife Veronica and little Jiselle return to Mexico.

Eduardo looks forward to the day he believes is coming soon that he, his wife and daughter will be able to be reunited on Catalina. Of that day, he says: "Once they join me here on the Island, the Conservancy will have two more volunteers."

Conservancy Plant Ecologist photographing the extremely rare native ocean spray
Eileen Torres-Zeller
Educator


Eileen Torres-Zeller, an assistant principal and now a classroom teacher  in Avalon, has been school coordinator for the Island Scholars Program for the past 12 years. During this time, she has seen students in grades 4, 5 and 6 complete the program and become community leaders who are proud to take care and nurture their Island home. 

The Island Scholars Program originated in 1997. The Conservancy, along with the Catalina Island Museum, the Catalina Island Marine Institute (CIMI) and USCs Wrigley Marine Science Center joined forces as the Catalina Island Education Consortium to expand opportunities for student learning outside of the classroom. During monthly field trips, students learn terrestrial science through the Conservancy, marine science through CIMI and USC, and Island history through the Museum. It all comes together at the end of the year during a two-day meeting at the Wrigley Marine Institute. 

As Island Scholar Coordinator and as a teacher, Eileen is grateful to the Conservancy for making it real in the lives of her students. They learn science that is applicable to their lives it opens their eyes to the richness of nature around them.  Eileen also appreciates the Conservancy's Kids in Nature and Families in Nature programs. The two programs make it possible for children and families to leave the confines of Avalon for adventures in the Interior where they learn about and experience the natural world. "The Conservancy has always been open to new ideas and new programs for educating and cultivating the youth of Catalina," she said. "We are very grateful that the Conservancy is always there to help us meet the needs of our students, Catalina's future leaders."

Conservancy Plant Ecologist photographing the extremely rare native ocean spray
Diane Wilkinson
Marinero
Volunteer


Diane Wilkinson, Commodore of Cherry Cove Yacht Club (through April 2010), loves her boat, loves Catalina, and loves dogs. In fact, she and her children raised four guide dogs for the blind during summers aboard their boat!

Diane has been coming to Catalina with her family since 1956 and remembers the formation of the Conservancy in 1972. "I had just graduated from college, and my eyes were opening to a lot of new things, she said. I realized that it was a very positive step at the time. There were rumors of possible development. I knew then that the Conservancy was the right answer for the protection of the Island. Weve owned a mooring in Cherry Cove since1964, she said.

In January when the days start getting longer, I get excited just knowing the summer was coming and I will visit Catalina soon.

A few years ago, Diane retired, and now spends two months during the summer at the Conservancys Cherry Cove. She is kept company by McKennaa retired guide dog she originally trained. On the west side of Cherry Cove is a small, rocky beach the only beach boaters can land their dogs. Diane took the initiative to acquire and have installed two stations that dispense plastic doggy bags and provide receptacles.

It actually started as a point of discussion during a meeting of the Yacht Club, Diane recalls. I just raised my hand and took it on!

On each of the containers is an outline of Catalina with the words: Please preserve our Island and pick up after your dog. Thank you. Its signed by the Cherry Cove Yacht Club, Two Harbors Enterprises, and the Conservancy.

We want people to know what they are protecting, and why, she says. I cherish Catalina, and I very much appreciate the Conservancys integral role in the Islands protection. Its important to me that my grandchildren will experience this slice of heaven.
 
 

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