Just recently, California Assemblyman Mike Davis suggested investigating if the California Department of Parks & Recreation could take over Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. Hailed by nearly everyone as the “King of Pop,” Michael Jackson passed away last year and had nearly 2,500 acres of land on his former estate in Santa Barbara County—which could all, potentially, become a state park.
On the estate, Jackson had amusement rides, a private zoo and video games—all of which were either taken apart or sold. Jackson had actually moved out of the estate in 2005. Two years ago, a Santa Barbara private equity outfit took over the Neverland Ranch, when Jackson almost lost it to foreclosure; he and Colony Capital LLC formed a venture worth $35 million. Colony and the Jackson Family presently co-own Neverland.
Last year, residents in Santa Ynez Valley formed a group to protest any plans which they feel may turn Jackson’s Neverland Ranch into a tourist attraction. However, Mike Davis believes, and rightfully so, fans from around the world would make trips to Neverland. There’s no question a tourist attraction such as a “Michael Jackson Neverland State Park,” would help California’s struggling economy. “Given that we have an economic shortfall…I suspect it would be difficult for the State Parks Department to purchase the property alone,” the Assemblyman said recently in addition to proposing a public-private partnership.
As of right now, California’s budget deficit is approximately $19 billion. “I am committed to finding out all the details possible to make this a good proposal,” Mike Davis said. Though, it is unclear where the funds to operate and manage such a park would come from considering the rise in the Department of Parks & Recreation’s budget cuts.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had once suggested closing nearly 220 of 279 state parks, in order to save the state money. He later nixed his proposal, instead, working with lawmakers to close parks on certain days and cut park services where necessary.