The L.A. County Board of Supervisors is set to discuss Tuesday the possibility of entering into negotiations to transfer ownership of William S. Hart Park to the city of Santa Clarita.
If the motion passes during the Tuesday meeting, county staff would be instructed to begin negotiating with the city of Santa Clarita, reporting back to the board within 90 days with an update.
The conversation surrounding Hart Park has resurfaced in the last year due to members of the City Council, particularly Mayor Laurene Weste, advocating that the park be handed over to local control due to its proximity to the refurbished Old Town Newhall, it being home to a number of city events, such as the annual Cowboy Festival, and it being connected to a number of other local events, programs and historical portions of the community.
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.
Hart, known as “Two-Gun Bill,” was a famed western movie star of the silent film era.
“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.
In November, 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.
However, a number of speakers said the city should honor the will of William S. Hart, as he expressly gave the ownership of the park over to the county and its successors. Hart bequeathed the park land — including his hilltop mansion — to the county upon his death.
In response to the opposition, City Manager Ken Striplin said that in terms of the question of “successor” in the contract, the city would be considered the successor as the city had not been incorporated in 1987 — more than 40 years after Hart’s death.
Should the motion pass, the cost of the property transfer will be determined, among other things, during the coming months in negotiations.
The L.A. County Board of Supervisors meeting is slated to begin at 9:30 a.m. To view the meeting virtually, visit http://bos.lacounty.gov/Board-Meeting/Live-Broadcast.