Though an island, could Catalina be at a sort of crossroads, a tipping point, if you will?
Exceeding a million annual visitors, Catalina faces the future with key decisions to be made. Not only will voters soon decide on their political leadership, but also whether or not they approve a funding mechanism that could replace a 60-year-old institution. A more critical decision, perhaps, is for islanders to decide to collaborate on a shared vision for the future.
It’s no secret that most of Catalina Island is a protected preserve of natural beauty and wildlife. With the population and commercial growth around the world, such protected areas are disappearing at a significant rate. More importantly, the desire for the world’s expanding population to experience this natural beauty is simultaneously reaching an all-time high. Recent studies have estimated that the global market for ecotourism and protected areas could be as much as $600 billion.
More than a million of those tourists came to Catalina last year. Some want beaches. Some want nature and others want simply to experience the mystique. All of them have one thing in common. They all come to Catalina.
Therefore, at some point, Catalina must come together as a collective group to find solutions that will improve the quality of life for residents while also facilitating visitors from around the world. Undoubtedly, there are tensions on the island. Little question about it. Even so, there is a collective undercurrent of pride and unity that occasionally finds an opportunity to make an appearance. It is in these moments of unity and collaboration that island residents can perhaps find their greatest hope.
Apparently, such unity was in some way on display recently when groups of the world’s top travel writers and event planners visited the Island. According to the Chamber’s newsletter, the collaboration of businesses, residents and service providers, left the group “wanting more.” For Catalina Island, that is, of course, a very good thing.
According to the Chamber, during their three-day stay, one group parasailed courtesy of Island Waters Charters Parasailing, kayaked to Frog Rock courtesy of Descanso Beach Ocean Sports, indulged in various spa treatments courtesy of the Island Spa, carted around courtesy of Cartopia, took-in a tour of the Casino and went inland on the East End Adventure Tour courtesy of Catalina Island Company. They checked out the Catalina Island Museum, partook in Catalina Tours “Happy Hour Tour” and gazed at the stars and learned of space during the Astronomy Tour booked through Catalina Coastal Tours and hosted by Kathleen Hill Carlisle, the round trip transportation to Buena Vista Point was provided courtesy of Catalina Transportation Services. Group meals were hosted by Avalon Grille, Bluewater Grill and The Lobster Trap. In fact, the list of islanders who participated is too long for this column. The space required is irrelevant. The point made by the participants is not. Islanders indeed may have arrived at a tipping point. They have unlimited possibilities for the future if key decisions can be made. For island residents, there is no other place to look but the future. The future belongs to those who shape it. Decisions aside, one can only imagine what Catalina might be if this collaborative unity, inspired by the pride of its residents, could find a way to surface more often.
David N. Young is the editor of the Catalina Islander.