Encino residents assembled at Friday afternoon to attend a meeting led by state Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) to discuss ways to keep the park open to the public. Los Encinos is one of 70 state parks scheduled to close next July due to budget cuts.
The meeting was followed by a guided tour of the park with Pavley, members of the Encino Neighborhood Council and Encino Chamber of Commerce, and officials from the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
The parks department estimates that Los Encinos costs the state about $210,000 a year in expenses. In order to keep the park open, $150,000 must be raised before the closing deadline.
Local residents were saddened at the prospect of losing their park.
“My daughter has been coming here since she was 9 months old,” said Encino resident Haddia Nazer.
“To me it’s a very important historic park because it shows the immigration from the east to the west and how California actually got established," Nazer said. "I think awareness should be raised as to the historical importance of this park so that more people will come.”
Kathy Moghimi-Patterson of the Encino Neighborhood Council told Patch that people are unclear about where to make their donations to help save the park. Moghimi-Patterson stressed the need for a nonprofit group to step forward and take responsibility for collecting funds to save the park, because donations end up in a general account for local parks and are not directly earmarked for Los Encinos.
Pavley said that it might be possible to raise enough funds to keep the park open on a part-time basis.
“We can close it, but there are still operating expenses,” said Pavley. “For about $140,000 a year you can’t raise enough money to keep it open all the time, but part-time is probably reasonable. We are shooting to have it open between three and five days a week.”
Residents offered a variety of ideas to help cut costs and generate revenue to maintain it. One resident raised the possibility of removing the fountain to save on its operating cost. Other money-raising ideas included opening up the park for television and film shoots, donor recognition events, private events and seasonal farming.
Encino resident Debbie Watson hoped that efforts to keep the park open would continue to grow.
“I feel that they are our elected officials and it’s good that they ask for people’s suggestions," she said, "but they are surrounded by professionals that know some of these answers and they should fight for this area. It’s a beautiful park.”
If the park does close, it could be vulnerable to vandalism and damage to its historic buildings. For now, elected officials are open to suggestions and are seeking to partner with local professionals who might be willing to offer their services pro bono and help minimize expenses for the park.
If you have any concerns or suggestions to keep the park open you may email them to Pavely’s office by clicking here.