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California NAACP Proposes Turning Neverland Ranch Into State Park

But State Parks officials say it's not a good time to make such an investment

Despite a $100 million price tag, a movement spearheaded by the California NAACP is afoot to turn Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch into a state park.

Sporting a Ferris wheel, a locomotive and a zoo, the ranch, located in Santa Barbara County’s Santa Ynez Valley, is under the management of Colony Capital LLC of Santa Monica. Jackson had relinquished control of the property to the private-equity firm in 2008 while embroiled in post-trial financial woes.

The proposal appears to have arisen from a pitch made to state Assemblyman Mike Davis, D-Los Angeles.

Davis, chairman of the Assembly Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism, and Internet Media, indicated that the idea had appealed to him when it was pitched to him at a reception.

Alice Huffman, California NAACP president and a member of the State Park & Recreation Commission, said that adding Neverland to the state’s roster of historic places would serve as a valuable tribute to black Americans who have had an impact on the history and culture of the state and nation.

A spokesman for California State Parks was adamant that his agency is not in the market to make acquisitions. Budget problems at the state level have taken their toll, and often have led to talks of shutting down state parks.

Huffman said that when compared with Hearst Castle in San Simeon on the Central Coast, Neverland could become a similar asset to the park system. The department countered that even though it charges $24 per visitor at Hearst Castle — the former home of printing magnate William Randolph Hearst — it scarcely breaks even on a property that is very expensive to maintain.

Noozhawk staff writer Ben Preston can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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