New Visitor Center Showcases Catalina’s Natural Resources

The Catalina Island Conservancy building, made with recycled materials and showcasing energy-efficient lighting and solar panels, was funded in part by Edison International.
Photo Credit: Elisa Ferrari
Video Credit: Robert Laffoon Villegas

B-roll Link

As tourists and visitors make their way to Catalina this summer, they will be greeted by a new building that features education about the natural resources of the island and also environmentally conscious construction and energy conservation.

The Trailhead, Catalina Island Conservancy’s new visitor center, is a multipurpose facility where visitors can learn about the many animal species and flora that the island supports, obtain permits and use interactive displays to learn about opportunities to interact with nature, such as camping or hiking.

The facility also includes a restaurant with stunning views of Avalon Harbor, a multipurpose education and gallery space and mission-related retail, all while incorporating sustainable practices and energy and water conservation features that make it a unique facility on Catalina.   

The Trailhead, Catalina Island Conservancy's new visitor center.
The Trailhead, Catalina Island Conservancy's new visitor center.

“Conservation, education and recreation are at the heart of our mission and are the ways we showcase the island’s natural resources,” said Tony Budrovich, Catalina Island Conservancy president and CEO. “The Trailhead, our newly opened visitor center, fits that mission perfectly as it serves both as a first stop for visitors to the island and a place to educate them about the natural resources and opportunities to interact with nature on the island.”

The Trailhead is the first LEED Gold certified building on Catalina, added Budrovich. “The planning and construction of the building include aspects with up to 50% recycled concrete and metal and even incorporates materials in the construction from the old hotel that was on the site.”

About 88% of the island is comprised of lands managed by the Catalina Island Conservancy for the benefit of the public, roughly 1 million annual visitors, many of whom never make it to the island’s interior.

Ron Hite, SCE’s island manager, and Tony Budrovich discuss the building’s salt water desalination system.
Ron Hite, SCE’s island manager, and Tony Budrovich discuss the building’s salt water desalination system.

The Trailhead building is designed to take advantage of the island’s breeze to minimize air conditioning. It also incorporates a native plant garden on the top deck, tanks to capture water and solar panels to reduce its energy footprint. The building even has a fully operating reverse osmosis water desalination plant that can produce 1,200 gallons of water daily to serve the buildings non-potable water needs to irrigate plants and clean the facility.

Actual energy and water savings are displayed at the facility to help educate the public on the importance of energy and water conservation and how a building’s design and features can help to conserve precious resources and generate savings. The Trailhead’s green features reduce water use by 47% and energy costs as much as 49%.

Rooftop solar panels produce power for the building.
Rooftop solar panels produce power for the building.

Edison International provided a donation to pay for the building’s management system and engineers from the utility provided the needed labor to install and bring the system online.

“We are pleased to help the conservancy with sustainably operating the building, and in its mission to educate the public regarding the importance of energy savings,” said Caroline Choi, senior vice president of Corporate Affairs for Edison International and Southern California Edison.