July 12, 2017

Social stratification at Two Harbors on Catalina Island

 Let me begin this article by stating that I adore Catalina Island and I especially love the Two Harbors area on the northeast side of the island.

I always will.

I grew up in southern California and now own an old, yet sea-worthy, Newport 30 sailboat. I am doubly blessed in that each year, I make the 76 nautical mile crossing from San Diego to Two Harbors.

Boat routes from LA to Two Harbors and Avalon on Catalina Island

Set off-shore of the crowded and crazy land of southern California, Two Harbors is a quiet, sleepy refuge. It is beloved by visitors because it has no pretensions, it is relatively affordable to visit and it maintains a salty, sea-faring feel.

Boaters can grab a mooring ball in the harbor. If you don't have a boat, you can take the day ferry in from LA. There are some campgrounds and a few simple options for room and board.

Sleepy and scenic Two Harbors, the gem of southern California.

There is not much happening at Two Harbors and that's what's so special about it. You can sip a beer on the patio of the Harbor Reef bar, you can paddle around or snorkel...and that's about it.

It is an honor to visit this gorgeous harbor. I hope future generations can experience Two Harbors as I have done.

Unfortunately, it is now changing in a manner that caters more to the upper class.

For better or worse, the Catalina Island Company owns all operations at Two Harbors in Catalina Island.

In recent years, this organization has been ramping up their efforts to commercialize and monetize their significant holdings on Catalina island. They have installed zip lines and added spas and resorts in the Descanso and Avalon part of the island. Opinions vary on whether this is good or bad for the island.

This year, the Catalina Island company is focusing it's 're-vitalization' efforts at sleepy Two Harbors.

The Catalina Island Co. has recently installed a new oceanfront at Two Harbors called, 'Harbor Sands'. This includes 6 cabanas, a bar, lots of lounge chairs and 1,900 tons of imported white sands.

Sounds innocent enough? Actually, it sucks and it introduces a toxic, divisive element to the harbor.

two harbors
The new Harbor Sands resort at Two Harbors.

The new 'Harbor Sands' dominates the coastline northwest of the pier and it is very much, Pay to Play.

The whole area is gated off and if you want to walk upon their imported white sand, be prepared to pay 300$ to rent a cabana or 60$ to rent chaise lounges.

These were the prices I saw during the first week of July. See photo below.

harbor sands

Keep in mind, up till a few months ago, all this coastline was open to the public. For many decades, families have been using this space to BBQ food and enjoy the scenic waterfront. It was free to use for all visitors. Now it is off limit to everyone except those paying through the nose to rent chairs, palapas and order over-priced drinks.

harbor sands at two harbors
6 picnic benches remain for those that don't want to play the Harbor Sands game.

new changes at two harbors
Public space on the left, gated off Harbor Sands on the right.

I just sailed out to Two Harbors in early July, I picked up a mooring ball in and spent a week in the area. I was mostly preoccupied with a new energy system, I picked up a power generator that runs off of solar power. This is an interesting complement to the 12 volt DC power system on most boats.. ...but I digress...

Here is what I observed within the Two Harbors community...

All the Two Harbors locals I spoke with are vehemently against the invasive Harbor Sands. I also failed to find one boater who likes Harbor Sands. Instead, all the stories I heard were about long-time visitors being angered by the invasive new development.

Now let me wrap this up by re-stating how much I adore Catalina Island and Two Harbors. I am writing this article as an expression of tough love for the island.

I don't want to see the public waterfront encroached upon. I hate the idea of the middle class having to peer in across the rope-line to see how good the upper class has it.

If island visitors want a super-fancy 'elite' Catalina Island experience, they already have Descanso.

There is no need to introduce such flagrant social stratification onto the sleepy coastline of Two Harbors.

I am hoping the Catalina Island Company will make better decisions in the future. 


Anonymous said...

The elite also have all the other coves representing some type of "club" you have to pay to be part of. And none of these elite clubs respect the coastal commission act. Its a shame they want to take what very little is left for the general public. I now venture to the northern islands after 35 years I have to say good bye to Catalina.

Anonymous said...

What a shame. I used to go there and just relax, now pay to play? Not me. American greed is at it again. Let's just hope no one uses there service.

Anonymous said...

I agree this is a slippery slope that will not be good for Two Harbors....been coming here for years on our boat. Has anyone noticed the drinks seem smaller, not as good and cost more? I will spend more time on my boat and hike the island like I always have but will not partake in the Island Company's grand scheme...

Anonymous said...

Just went back today after being there last August, been going to Two Harbors for 35 years. This Harbor Sands is just really disgusting. I can't understand why the Coastal Commission or better test the Catalina Island Conservancy would allow this. We all know the Conservancy leases and controls the lease at Two Harbors on most everything. I remember when dogs weren't allowed in Two Harbors and the West End and now they say dogs almost wiped out the rare island fox , yet they allow dogs. An I counted 27 dogs today 7 were not on a leash and the dog feces are everywhere. It's sad to see how the rich and upper class can pay to have everything at their leisure. Wrigley was not this way, when he had control of the island he wanted to preserve it. Really sad to see what they have done.

Unknown said...
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Anonymous said...

I've been boating to the Isthmus for almost all of my 70 years and I'm saddened and furious about the silly changes that have been made to my little piece of Heaven. Here we sit in Fourth of July Cove, one of only two boats here for the past few days, just returned from a trip ashore. There's not a soul in the cabanas except for two people who seem to be eternally cleaning the places. Hello? It's a BEACH and they're going to get sandy.

I have no argument with the cozy little bar adjacent to the dive shack. Booze always makes money. What galls me is the fact that they've relocated the crummy old barbeques to a dusty, distant corner outside the splendid (trucked in) white sand beach for the exclusive use of PAYING customers. Hey! We paid for a mooring, now we have to pay to use the land too? Generations of families have spend summers here playing volleyball, having barbeques ashore enjoying the laid back Island Attitude.

Somebody must have made some major payoffs to get this abomination passed. Unfortunately, it has soured me on coming to the Isthmus as we usually do several times a year. If we do make the trip we won't be spending any time, or money, in the restaurant, store or bar. Farewell to my childhood home away from home.

Mimi Fox
MV Mary Louise

Captain Curran said...

Mimi Fox,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I couldn't agree more. They went too far. I hope this endeavors proves a failure and the harbor is opened back up...but I'm not going to hold my breath.


Brian said...

My my my -- I guess nothing lasts forever. When I was a kid in the 60s the family would moor at Isthmus Cove almost exclusively, because it was as yet a more or less pristine, sleepy hamlet with lots of open space to enjoy the beach or a walk to Cat Harbor. Just enough services to sustain the boaters in the harbor. Having not been to Catalina in probably 45 years, as I grew older I wondered how long it would take before the Conservancy would start opening up land for development in Two Harbors. This is my answer. And it's a crying shame. The appeal of going there was that it was a family-oriented harbor and landing that was accessible to those of every means, walk of life, and interest. Catalina is one of the last pristine paradises left in California that hasn't been commercialized, developed, or loved to death. But like most things, you can't go back. Change is inevitable. I just didn't think the Conservancy would sell out. It won't be long before every cove along the leeward coast is opened to the highest bidder, with middle-class boaters being left to anchor outside the mooring field and stay on their boats if they don't want to get soaked (financially).

Anonymous said...

“Boater’s don’t spend money”. This is for the the cruise ship and campers.

Anonymous said...

Lived and worked in Avalon for 14 years in the 90s, it was a magical time there, from what I'm hearing, lots of Islanders and locals are leaving, cause of the commercialization of the island by SCIC, and greedy business owners. Change is inevitable, and painful.

Anonymous said...

SCIC is a company money driven, money will supercede anything else, take hede.