In a sign of how quickly the economic crisis is loosening California's grip on its natural resources and historical heritage, the Will Rogers Ranch Foundation is, according to the L.A. Times, seeking to take control of the operation of Pacific Palisade's Will Rogers State Historical Park. The park is not just any patch of chaparral-covered hills. Besides offering breathtaking views of both the Pacific Ocean and, at its other end, the San Fernando Valley, the Rogers Ranch brings together in a single place nature, Old Hollywood and the Indian-cowboy legacy that the populist-satirist brought with him from Oklahoma.
The park's original 186 acres encompass the only regulation, outdoor polo field in the county and miles of trails winding through the Santa Monica Mountains. However, as far back as January, 2008, the park was nominated for closure by Governor Schwarzenegger. Its fate seemed further sealed last month when the governor sliced $6.2 million off a state-parks budget that had already just lost a net $8 million. Since the cuts, the parks department has expressed hope that private groups or not-for-profit organizations will come forward to either donate funds to keep certain parks open or to actually operate them. The Will Rogers Ranch Foundation is a new nonprofit that has staged outdoor screenings of Rogers' films at the park, and whose board is chaired by Rogers' great-granddaughter, Jennifer Rogers-Etcheverry.
According to the Times article, the park's staff has had "to reduce the
number of days the ranch house is open to tours and to halt work on the
visitors center, which has been undergoing a restoration. The
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foundation plans to operate a retail shop in the visitors center to
muster more funds to care for the property."
The parks department has said that after Labor Day it will announce which of 100 vulnerable, cash-strapped parks will be closed. When asked about the foundation's proposal, state parks information officer Sheryl Watson gave the following statement to the L.A. Weekly:
"We look forward to speaking to the Will Rogers Ranch Foundation about their propoosal, and we continue to explore all creative solutions brought to us from prospective partners and sponsors who want to help us keep more parks open and operating for the public. We appreciate their interest and look forward to working with them."