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Catalina plans to add tourist attractions; scientists unhappy

March 21, 2012 |  7:40 am

CatalinaCatalina announced plans this week to transform the Catherine Hotel into a site of nature exhibits and accommodations for researchers and eco-tourists.

The 14-room hotel in Avalon will feature a restaurant and gift shop where tourists can buy tickets for proposed attractions, including an upgraded Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden and a gondola ride from the garden to a scenic ridgeline.

The conservancy believes the gondola ride would generate revenue to help pay for conservation, educational programs and infrastructure, Muscat said.

But critics say the gondola will require significant funding upfront, consuming resources that could be used for conservation and education. Some biologists argue not enough has been done to upgrade Middle Ranch, which remains a hodgepodge of aging structures, providing accommodations for no more than two researchers at a time.

The projects, recommended in the Catalina Island Conservancy's new 20-year master plan, align with efforts by the Santa Catalina Island Co. to revive Avalon's stature as a tourist destination 22 miles off the California coast.

About 88% of the 75-square-mile island is owned by the conservancy, which is a steward for at least 50 plant and animal species found nowhere else in the world.

-- Louis Sahagun

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Photo: A Night Zip Line Eco-Tour on Santa Catalina Island. Credit: Santa Catalina Island Co.

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