CI Takes the Helm of Channel Islands Boating Center

By Lori Putnam
 The keys to the boating center presented to President Richard Rush

Just in time for summer, the Channel Islands Boating Center has opened its doors after a 14-year journey from concept to construction. The boating center, located in Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard, offers CSU Channel Islands (CI) students and Ventura County residents a popular resource to enjoy water sports and to learn more about the local marine environment.

Ventura County retained CI as a project manager during construction of the 15,000 square-foot facility, and the University is responsible for its daily operations as part of a long-term lease. The County and the Channel Islands Harbor Foundation funded the two-story building which includes a boathouse, classrooms, an outside deck, and a lobby area for educational exhibits. The dock is adjacent to the boating center to provide direct access to the water. DesignARC of Santa Barbara designed the boating center and construction was completed by HMH Constructors of Camarillo.

President Richard Rush with Board of Supervisors Ventura County members Peter C. Foy, Kathy Long, John Zaragoza and Linda Parks.

“Early on in the project, we developed partnerships,” said Lyn Krieger, Director of the Channel Islands Harbor Department of Ventura County. “The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, for example, was very active from the start in providing an educational component for the Center’s use.” Other boating center partners include the California Department of Boating and Waterways and a number of private donors. 

“This Center has a lot of uses for the University, certainly as a recreational facility for students but also as a great learning opportunity about our environment,” added Krieger. The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, which is managed through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), covers more than 1,400 miles of water off the coastlines of Santa Barbara and Ventura. It is a popular area for diving, boating, and observing diverse wildlife. 

 “We All Have a Stake in It”

The keys to the boating center were presented to President Richard Rush in a public ceremony on April 3 attended by members of the County Board of Supervisors and federal agencies, CI staff and faculty, and children from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Oxnard and Port Hueneme. The children were the first through the center’s lobby doors to view the various exhibits on ocean exploration, navigation, and climate change which were designed and funded by NOAA. 

“This was the first thing that hit my desk when I came to Ventura County in 2001,” said Rush, who recounts that his 11-year involvement with the boating center makes him a relative latecomer compared to other project participants. Rush applauded CI faculty member Barbara Thorpe and the late CI administrator Stephen Lefevre in helping to bring the boating center to fruition. “Steve carried the baton for us a number of years in making this a reality for the entire community,” observed Rush. “Steve, thank you. We made it and we’re grateful to you for it.” 

The back deck of the boating center

County Supervisor John Zaragoza, representing the Fifth District, which includes Channel Islands Harbor, shared his belief that the center will be a vanguard for future boating centers—due in no small part to the success of the various partnerships. “It was important to form this partnership with the county, city, and the University. The partnership with NOAA and the donors were essential too,” said Zaragoza. “We were all involved and that’s what makes a project like this one successful. We all have a stake in it.”

“Everything we do these days is a public and private partnership,” remarked Rush. “To the donors and the community, we thank you. On behalf of the University, we will hold the center in trust for you.”

 The interior learning center

A Link to Learning 

The boating center will be the new home of CI’s award-winning sailing team and will offer training for CI students in sailing, kayaking, rowing, power boating, and more. However, its reach will extend far beyond the University.

“The boating center will provide an educational link between public schools, colleges, and the community,” said Edwin Lebioda, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs. “It will provide access to the waterfront for the general public and provide training and equipment for those who might not otherwise have the opportunity to use the harbor.” A key stakeholder group will be school-age children, many of whom will experience the boating center for the first time as part of CI’s Youth Watersports Camp. Beginning in late June and running through mid-August, children ages 8 to 16 can participate in sailing, kayaking, and windsurfing programs taught by CI staff and students. 

The boating center

“I’m really thrilled about the opportunity for younger kids to participate in summer water programs offered by CI,” said Krieger. “Hopefully this can help expose children at a young age to the University.” 

What’s more, the boating center may spark a lifelong interest in the environment and marine research. Dan Basta, Director of the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, recalls that his own passion for the ocean began with a simple love of fishing. “I didn’t learn about the sea from a text book,” he said, “I wanted to get on a boat and go fishing.” He believes community resources like the Channel Islands Boating Center can not only build awareness for the value of marine sanctuaries now, but also help educate the next generation about environmental issues. “The secret here is that you are engaging a community of youth not by telling them to pay attention to the ocean, but by engaging them in experiential activities such as sailing and boating.” CI will provide a range of for-credit and non-credit recreational activities at the boating center. 

Channel Islands Boating Center Partners

 California Department of Boating and Waterways

California Department of Parks and Recreation

California State University Channel Islands

Channel Islands Harbor Foundation

Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Office of National Marine Sanctuaries

Martin V. & Martha K. Smith Family Foundation

Bob and Sandy Snyders

Ventura County Harbor Department