At the bottom of the fiscal trough that was California’s budget crisis, Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen was one of some 70 state parks slated for indefinite closure.
California State Parks was out of money, faced a $22 million deficit and more than $1 billion in deferred maintenance.
The future for Jack London, along with Annadel and Sugarloaf State Parks, was grim and cast a gloomy pall over the fabled Valley of the Moon. Jack London, alone, had an annual operating deficit of $163,000 and neither the park, nor the massive state bureaucracy behind it, had the budget or the expertise to mount the kind of marketing and promotional initiative that could draw more visitors to the home and the grave of, arguably, America’s most famous writer.
But, with only a brief operational interruption in the winter of 2011, that closure never occurred. Instead, a unique, precedent-setting public-private partnership was engineered following the passage of enabling legislation authored by then-Assemblymember Jared Huffman.
Hope for the park was partially ignited in October 2011 by a stunning musical concert produced in the park’s old winery ruins by the newly-formed Transcendence Theatre Company, composed of professional Broadway and Hollywood performers. The concert drew a wildly enthusiastic audience estimated at 900 and raised thousands of dollars for the park while demonstrating the viability of a venue capable of attracting thousands of new visitors.