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Anonymous gift of $150,000 will help keep Encino park open

January 5, 2012 | 10:52 pm

Los Encinos State Historic Park

This post has been corrected. See note at bottom for details.

An anonymous donor has given a much-welcomed New Year’s gift to San Fernando Valley residents: Enough money to keep Los Encinos State Historic Park from closing -- at least for a year.

State Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), who has been working to prevent closure of the Encino park located in her 23rd District, said a San Fernando Valley man and his family who wish to remain unnamed have contributed $150,000 to saving the park.

Los Encinos was among 70 California parks facing closure because of state budget cuts. The park costs about $210,000 to operate annually, according to the state parks department. Supporters were trying to raise at least $150,000 by the July deadline to keep it open.

According to Pavley, who created a task force to help the community brainstorm ways to raise money to keep it open, the donor spotted a story in The Times about the park’s impending closure.

“He had taken his kids to the park several times,” Pavley said. “He immediately went home, spoke to his wife and decided to contribute ... enough money to keep it open for an additional year.”

“It’s a great victory,” Kathy Moghimi-Patterson, an Encino Neighborhood Council board member who is leading the campaign to save the park, said of the gift. “Our job isn’t done yet, but we’re closer to our goal. We’re hoping that someone matches the amount of the donation.”

The 5-acre park at the corner of Balboa and Ventura boulevards in Encino, which many locals describe as a “hidden treasure,” was an early California rancho. It includes an original nine-room adobe, built in 1849; a two-story house made of limestone; and a guitar-shaped pond fed by a natural spring and home to geese, mallards and coots.

The property was used in turn by Native Americans, cattle ranchers and French sheep farmers. Period pieces from the 19th century adorn the inside of the adobe. Docents host guided tours, and park staff members stage monthly reenactments of life in the Old West for schoolchildren.

The grounds are bedecked with cactus, citrus and Australian silk oaks. Generations of families have frequented the park, according to Moghimi-Patterson.

“The generosity of a Valley resident to keep it open is really inspirational and will really incentivize the work of the task force,” Pavley said. “You think of all the children who will benefit from this.”

[For the record, 4:10 p.m. Jan. 6: A previous version of this post said a San Fernando man made the donation. Pavley's office now says the man and his family made the donation.]

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-- Ann M. Simmons

Photo: A visitor feeds the geese and ducks at the pond at Los Encinos State Historic Park.

Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

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