*Michael Jackson’s former Neverland Ranch in California could be converted into a new state park under an idea being floated by a California legislator.
Assemblyman Mike Davis said Tuesday that the California Department of Parks and Recreation should take the over the 2,500-acre estate, which once housed amusement park rides and a zoo with tigers and snakes. He said Jackson fans around the world would love to walk the grounds once owned by the King of Pop.
He also said NAACP president Alice Huffman and others approached him with the idea.
At this point, the biggest obstacle to seeing it through is money. California is completely broke, so Davis said he would have to propose a public-private partnership.
“I suspect it would be difficult for the State Parks Department to purchase the property alone,” he told the Associated Press. “I am committed to finding out all the details possible to make this a good proposal.”
Davis said the plan remains only an idea at the moment and that he might introduce a bill or resolution on the matter after lawmakers return from their monthlong recess in August.
Colony Capital LLC, a Santa Barbara-based private equity firm, took control of Neverland in a venture with Jackson after he nearly lost the estate to foreclosure. Jackson signed over control of the estate to Colony Capital for $35 million in 2008.
Many of the estate’s attractions were dismantled or sold after his death in 2009. Colony Capital now co-owns the estate with the Jackson family. Colony spokesman Owen Blicksilver declined to comment on the proposal.
The success of the proposal is uncertain in a state where the budget deficit stands at $19 billion. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger previously proposed selling the state’s landmark buildings to raise cash to cover the shortfall.
It would be difficult even under a public/private partnership for the state to fund ongoing costs to maintain and operate the ranch, given recent budget cuts to the Department of Parks and Recreation. Last year, Schwarzenegger proposed closing 220 of California’s 279 state parks to save money, but later backed down. Instead, he and lawmakers agreed to close half the parks on certain days and reduce services.
In November, Californians will vote on a ballot initiative that is designed to provide stable funding to state parks by imposing an $18 surcharge on vehicle license fees. If it’s approved, vehicles with California plates would get free park admission.