After a more than two-year closure, the William S. Hart Regional Park Barnyard staff and its animals were excited to welcome the public back Sunday.
The barnyard first shut its doors in February 2019, when virulent Newcastle disease forced the barnyard to quarantine its birds to keep them protected from catching the contagious bird disease. Following the quarantine, the barnyard rolled right into another closure, unable to reopen due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s restrictions.
Now, two and a half years later, the barnyard — as well as the adjacent gift shop and bookstore — celebrated its grand reopening with animal talks and presentations, as the public was given its first opportunity to visit and feed the park’s barnyard animals.
“It’s so great to finally have the public back, and the animals are able to interact with the public,” said longtime volunteer Evan Decker. “It’s wonderful to be part of the reopening, so it’s really heartwarming to see that, as you can tell the animals are happy, too.”
Since the county took over the ranch in 1946, the park, museum and barnyard have been free for the public to enjoy, just as Hart wished in his will.
Some of the animals who call the barnyard home include wild boars, alpacas, donkeys, horses, mule deer, pot-bellied pigs, tortoises, rabbit, turkey, pheasant, ducks, geese, chicken, swans, along with a bison herd, located in a 22-acre enclosure to the west of the barnyard, just off La Loma Road.
Catherine Chan and her extended family traveled from Los Angeles to visit the barnyard for the first time after being invited by her sister, who works at the park.
“It’s really nice — the grounds are really beautiful,” Chan said, adding that it was worth the trip.
The barnyard is outfitted with pellet dispensers, so even if the gift shop is closed, visitors can purchase pellets to feed any of the animals, except the donkey, horse, alpacas and tortoise due to their special diet.
The barnyard’s waterfowl exhibit is undergoing renovations, which are set to be complete in the coming weeks, according to Rachael Komulainen, park animal keeper.
While the William S. Hart Museum has yet to reopen to the public, staff were on-site Sunday with activities for kids to participate in, and in the meantime, the museum plans to offer school programs virtually, as well as select in-person special events when possible.
Private tours and birthday parties with animal presentations are also available for those who donate to the Friends of Hart Park, with the funds then going toward the barnyard, according to Park Superintendent II Eric Reifman.
The barnyard is also in search of volunteers who are familiar with animals and want to help out.
The barnyard is scheduled to be open 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, while the park itself is open 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. those same days. For more information, call 661-259-1750 or visit friendsofhartpark.com.