Michael Jackson, Neverland Ranch

AP Photo/Lois Bernstein; Pool Photographer/Getty Images

Is it true that the state is going to convert Michael Jackson's Neverland estate into a state park?

—MJForeverPlan, via the  Answer B!tch inbox

Well, I wouldn't be rearranging the family vacation plans away from Disneyland or Graceland or any other Land, at least, not for a while. As of this moment, the multi-acre Santa Barbara County estate is still in the hands of a private investor, and California isn't exactly swimming in cash at the moment. If the state does invest in Neverland—either on its own or with private partners—the project will certainly be unprecedented...

The idea for a Neverland state park is reportedly the brainchild of Alice Huffman, president of the California branch of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People. California Assemblyman Mike Davis, who also is championing the idea, tells me he hopes the project will prove a moneymaker for our troubled state, and that the financial risk could be eased through a partnership with private companies or foundations.

The next step, he hopes, will be a study to determine whether the project is feasible.

It's not clear what, if any, influence the Jackson family would have in a project like this, but there's a good indication that the park wouldn't just showcase the pretty landscaping. More importantly—and, likely, controversially—Neverland State Park would serve as permanent homage to the influential entertainer, and at least partially on the public dime.

"I think there's a culture in America that has lot to do with honoring people who happen to be entertainers," Davis said to me. "So many entertainers have been seen by American society as having the dream job. Today's children say they want to be Beyoncé, for example."

Huffman, who didn't return calls for comment, has said that moneymaking isn't necessarily so important as "preserving history."

"Even if it breaks even, when you're preserving history and you're making it available to the public, there are other values to that are assigned more than the money," Huffman told The Boston Herald. "It's a piece of California history and world history that ought to be preserved."

(Right, right. As long as we remember the King of Pop, does a silly thing like a state budget really matter?)

Project supporters are point to Graceland as a model for how much money Neverland could bring in; indeed, it brought in about $36 million in revenue last year. Then again, that place is privately run; the state of Tennessee bears no financial risk related to the shrine to Elvis Presley.

There's also some comparison being made to Hearst Castle, onetime home of the moneybags media magnate. But that estate was donated to California; we didn't pay a dime for it.

So what would it take for this project to happen? Well, money, for one.

Colony Capital, which bought Neverland for $17 million in 1988, isn't commenting on the proposal, but it isn't likely that they would hand over the property gratis. Colony president Thomas J. Barrack Jr. told Bloomberg News last month that he hoped to sell it for more than $100 million.

Which isn't, for the record, gratis.

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