Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen will be spared closure this summer after the state parks department announced Tuesday that it has agreed to let a nonprofit run it.
The agreement is the first of its kind as the state negotiates with nonprofits, private concessionaires and other groups to try and keep open many of the 70 state parks originally slated to shut July 1.
Jack London draws 50,000 visitors annually and in addition to its natural setting includes priceless historical artifacts related to the famed author.
"We are excited and ready to get to work," said Greg Hayes, a retired Jack London park ranger and President of the Valley of the Moon Natural History Association.
The association submitted a bid to operate the 1,800-acre park under legislation by Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael. The law, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, allows qualified non-profits to run state parks that are set for closure for as long as five years or until the state's finances improve.
The state maintains ownership of the park and will continue to enforce all rules and regulations, such as public access and hours of use.
"We have reached a milestone in our effort to save this park," said Ruth Coleman, director of California State Parks. "We are pleased the association has stepped forward and we are confident they will do all possible to care for this remarkable historic home during their tenure."
The Valley of the Moon association was established in 1977 and in addition to Jack London works in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park and Annadel State Park, both of which also are slated to close July 1.
The state originally announced plans to shut 70 of California's 278 parks to achieve $11 million in annual savings sought by Brown and lawmakers.
With the deadline approaching, the parks department is negotiating with local governments, nonprofits and private concessionaires to keep as many of the parks open as possible.
Before Wednesday's announcement, state officials said they had agreements to keep 11 of 70 parks open. They expressed optimism that an additional 35 could be spared.
The agreement for Jack London calls for the park to be operating a minimum of 36 hours a week with the Valley of the Moon association responsible for daily maintenance, visitor services, volunteer staffing, protection of natural and historic resources and interpretation.