L.A. County, city of Santa Clarita to negotiate Hart Park transaction

Santa Clarita City Hall, as pictured on February, 26, 2020, is located on the 23900 block of Valencia Blvd. Dan Watson/The Signal

The L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to instruct county staff to begin the negotiation process regarding a possible transfer of William S. Hart Park and Museum to the city of Santa Clarita 

The transfer of the property has been publicly discussed by elected officials at both the city and county level since last year. Those in favor of the move say it’s appropriate because the historic park has not only been a staple in the community for generations, but also is close to the refurbished area of Old Town Newhall, is home to a number of city events, such as the annual Cowboy Festival, and houses Heritage Junction.  

During the meeting, Mayor Laurene Weste expressed her excitement at the city being given the opportunity to take over the day-to-day operations of the park, emphasizing the historical significance it has to the community.   

Hart, known as “Two-Gun Bill,” was a famed western movie star of the silent film era who had built his ranch home in what was, at the time, a remote portion of L.A. County. Since Hart’s death in 1946, the county of Los Angeles has owned and operated the 160-acre park, which includes William S. Hart Park, the William S. Hart Museum, historic Heritage Junction, many native plants and animals, a herd of American bison, hiking and nature trails, a large picnic area and buildings that had been personally used by William S. Hart.     

“The majority of visitors to the Hart Museum are residents of the Santa Clarita Valley, including field trips from nearby schools,” reads the motion authored by Supervisor Kathryn Barger, the Santa Clarita Valley’s representative on the county board. “The local high school and high school district are also named after William S. Hart, connecting the museum’s educational value with student curriculum and campus culture.”  

“The potential transfer of Hart Park may provide (the county Department of Parks and Recreation) opportunity to reallocate staff and funding associated with the operations and maintenance of Hart Park to address gaps in services rendered by DPR in the North County and the Regional Agency,” it adds.   

Last year, the Santa Clarita City Council voted to pursue ownership of Hart Park, with council members stating they wished to take ownership of the property and continue on with preserving its historic legacy.    

With the passage of the motion, the cost of the property transfer will be determined, among other things, during the coming months in negotiations. Additionally, the Natural History Museum is said to be preparing a list of assets in Hart’s collection, as well as information about the cost of conservation and upkeep.   

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