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A unanimous 5-0 vote of the Santa Clarita City Council has paved the way for the acquisition of William S. Hart Park in Newhall from the county of Los Angeles. Hart Park is the last county park remaining in the city limits of the city of Santa Clarita.

The vote was held Tuesday, June 13 during the regular meeting of the Santa Clarita City Council. View video of the City Council meeting here.

Hart Park is named after William S. Hart, also known as “Two Gun Bill.” He was the first cowboy movie star during the silent film era. Hart made almost 70 silent movies from 1914 to 1925.

Hart’s last film was the sweeping epic “Tumbleweeds” and after its release in 1925, the star retired to his Horseshoe Ranch in Newhall. When his 10,000-square-foot Spanish Colonial Revival style mansion, “La Loma de los Vientos,” or “Hill of the Winds,” was completed in 1927, Hart moved in with his youngest sister, Mary Ellen and became an active member of the Newhall community.

Hart, who died in 1946 at the age of 81, bequeathed the land and his Newhall home, with all its contents, to the county of Los Angeles to be converted into a park and museum for the public. His will required that entrance to the park and museum be free to the public.

The Hart Museum was closed in March 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic and has not reopened. The museum is managed by the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County.

At the Nov. 23, 2021, regular meeting, the Santa Clarita City Council approved the recommended action to send a letter to the County of Los Angeles requesting the County’s consideration to transfer ownership of the William S. Hart Regional Park to the City of Santa Clarita.

On July 12, 2022, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a motion to begin negotiations with the city of Santa Clarita in order to transfer ownership of William S. Hart Park and the William S. Hart Museum to the city.

A team of approximately 20 city staff was formed to complete an analysis for acquiring the park including information on future financial obligations, details on deed restrictions and an outline of the process and timeline to complete the transfer. See the report here.

After the staff presentation of the analysis for park acquisition several speakers addressed the council.

Mike Jarel, a resident of Santa Clarita since 1997 and longtime volunteer for the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society spoke in support of the city acquisition of Hart Park. After noting the disconnect he noticed between the operation of Hart Park and the city of Santa Clarita he was surprised to learn that the park was run by the county, not the city.

“I think the time has come for the city now to take control of the destiny of what is probably the largest park in the city and a huge asset to the city and what would be a crown jewel to Newhall,” he said.

Also speaking in support of the acquisition was Bill West, a volunteer at the Hart Park and Museum for more than 15 years.

“I am a huge fan of the William S. Park and Museum,” he said. “I believe now is the time to do something new and fresh in Hart Park. Having seen what the city can do with park, I myself live near Central Park, I have no doubt that William S. Hart Park would be in highly capable, and more than that, uplifting hands under the leadership of the city of Santa Clarita.

After the public comments members of the council spoke about the importance of Hart Park to Santa Clarita.

“This is a jewel right in the center of our Arts District with art that is known internationally,” said Councilmember Laurene Weste. “Some of the finest Western art in the world is there.” The Hart Museum houses works by Charles Russell, James Montgomery Flagg and Joe De Yong.

Mayor Jason Gibbs said the city has a history of making things better when it takes on new acquisitions.

“I am confident we will honor what William S. Hart wanted and we will continue to preserve it and make it better,” he said.

After the discussion of costs and concerns about the park if the city did not take control of the park the council voted unanimously to proceed with the acquisition of Hart Park.

City staff estimates it could take anywhere from 18 to 24 months to complete steps to fully execute the transfer and begin city operation of the park. Among the steps required are:

— Complete title report and appraisal.

— CEQA – Class 25 Exemption.

— Probate Court approval.

— Formal approval by city and county for transfer.

— Execution of documents.

— Natural History Museum Transfer Agreement for Collection.

— Determine grants associated with the site and reassignment.

— Prepare for transfer by recruiting and hiring staff and the purchase of equipment.

— Certificate of Acceptance.

— Trust Fund Transfer.

Leon Worden, vice president of the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society and vice president of Friends of Hart Park, said the council vote was an important step in the future of Hart Park.

“I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had to go to (County) Supervisors Antonovich and Barger over the last 20 years every time Hart Park was on the chopping block,” he said. “Thankfully we’ve had two supervisors who really love that park and have fought to keep it open.”

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3 Comments

  1. William Dick says:

    I think that was a Good Decision by the Board. Hopefully the maintenance and upkeep will not place a BIG Burden on the City. The fact that admission can not be charged limits self funding. Perhaps the local Movie Industry can include location rental in their plans. Good Luck Santa Clarita.

    • SCVNews.com says:

      There seems to be some confusion about this in the community. Under the Hart will, you can’t charge admission, just like you don’t charge admission to walk into & use any city park; you can charge fees for programs & events, just like in any city park. The difference is that the revenues raised through program & event fees in Hart Park have to be used to fund Hart Park.

  2. Nadiya Littlewarrior says:

    👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽

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