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NAACP Wants to Make Neverland a State Park

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The audience applauds after first lady Michelle Obama speaks at the annual NAACP convention July 12 in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo)

The NACCP, which captured national attention this week by formally condemning the "racist elements" in the Tea Party, is now supporting a California state lawmaker's proposal to turn the former home of the King of Pop into a state park.

Assemblyman Mike Davis said this week that California NAACP president Alice Huffman and others approached him with the idea of the state Department of Parks and Recreation taking over the Neverland Ranch in Santa Barbara County.

The Los Angeles legislator said the idea is worth studying and that fans from around the world would visit Michael Jackson's former estate.

Huffman, who also serves on the state Parks Commission, told the Sacramento Bee that she thinks the idea could be a huge success.

"I think Michael's history is world history and I think it would become the No. 1 attraction for the state parks if we could pull it off," he told the newspaper.

Jackson's 2,500-acre estate once housed amusement park rides and a zoo with tigers and snakes, but many of the estate's attractions were dismantled or sold after his death in 2009.

Colony Capital LLC, a Santa Barbara-based private equity firm, took control of Neverland in a venture with Jackson after he nearly lost the estate to foreclosure. Jackson signed over control of the estate to Colony Capital for $35 million in 2008.

That company now co-owns the estate with the Jackson family. Colony spokesman Owen Blicksilver declined to comment on the proposal.

The success of the proposal is uncertain in a state where the budget deficit stands at $19 billion. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger previously proposed selling the state's landmark buildings to raise cash to cover the shortfall.

"Given that we have an economic shortfall ... I suspect it would be difficult for the State Parks Department to purchase the property alone," Davis said. He would propose a public-private partnership.

Davis said the plan remains only an idea at the moment and that he might introduce a bill or resolution on the matter after lawmakers return from their month long recess in August.

"I am committed to finding out all the details possible to make this a good proposal," Davis said.

It's not clear how the state would pay for even part of the ranch or ongoing costs to maintain and operate it, given recent budget cuts to the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Last year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed closing 220 of California's 279 state parks to save money, but later backed down. Instead, he and lawmakers agreed to close half the parks on certain days and reduce services.

In November, Californians will vote on a ballot initiative that is designed to provide stable funding to state parks by imposing an $18 surcharge on vehicle license fees. If it's approved, vehicles with California plates would get free park admission.

There are other signs that the proposal could be short-lived. About a year ago, residents of nearby Santa Ynez Valley organized a group to oppose any plan to turn Neverland into a tourist attraction.

It was at Neverland where authorities alleged that Jackson had molested a boy. Jackson was acquitted in 2005 and moved out of the property.

Davis said controversies surround many public figures and noted that Graceland, the former home of Elvis Presley, focuses on Presley's work, not issues in his personal life.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.