As most readers know, I was on administrative leave for the last two weeks as a result of the special event at Hearst Castle. I received so much support from the local community that it was truly humbling. That is what I love about living in this county. Thank you to all who expressed that support.
The number one question I now get is, “What happened?” What happened is that we mixed State Parks, the Hearst Castle Preservation Foundation, the Hearst Corp., Lady Gaga and water issues all together and stirred it quickly over 10 days, which resulted in some internal miscommunications and misperceptions. So, I ended up with a break from work while those issues were sorted out and clarified. Now I'm back at work, and everything is back to normal.
Most of the information in the paper identified the benefits of this event and cleared up the misperceptions. No water was wasted. All fees were paid. All costs were reimbursed. But a bit more needs to be said about a couple of items.
Lady Gaga was nothing but honorable during this negotiation and had nothing but total respect for the castle, the art, our water issues and the visitors. I was impressed by how smart, generous, creative and in charge of her artistic vision she is. There are many places across the world that would pay for Lady Gaga to film at their site. Instead, she donated $250,000 to the Hearst Castle Preservation Foundation, along with paying all the other costs. She did this because she is an artist who believes in supporting the arts and we are honored that she recognizes the significance of the collection that Mr. Hearst created at Hearst Castle. The benefits to the castle and to the county will long outlive the brief time of the event.
As park stewards, we worry about who will protect parks in the future. The millions of young women and men who will now see Hearst Castle because of watching Lady Gaga’s production is critical to that future. If just a small percentage of those millions become park supporters and future park stewards, then the future is in good hands. That benefit is priceless.
Nicholas Franco is district superintendent of State Parks' San Luis Obispo Coast District.