Almanac

News - May 12, 2010

New hitching post not coming soon to Portola Valley Town Center

by Dave Boyce

==BI This story has been updated to clarify a comment made by Mayor Steve Toben.== Portola Valley, a Western town and home to many equestrians, has at least a few wide open spaces as well as an extensive wooded trail system. How important is a hitching post at Town Center?

Equestrian and resident Mary Hufty has ridden to Town Hall to vote for 25 years, she told the Town Council at its April 28 meeting. She and her fellow riders want a tying-up place behind Town Hall, she said.

The only existing post is a long walk away and in disrepair, Ms. Hufty said. She and other equestrians want this new location for its seclusion and for its proximity to the center of action; it allows riders to maintain eye contact with their horses and watch their surroundings.

The council discussed the matter but delayed action on designing and locating a post until completion of a trail along the perimeter of the Town Center. The trail is problematic in that there is so little room to spare; it may require giving up a parking space or two.

The existing post is not ideal and is a bit of a walk to the building complex, Mayor Steve Toben said, but reminded Ms. Hufty of an earlier comment she made that a hitching post is a symbol of where equestrians can tie up.

"Horses are a reality in this town. They're not just symbols," Ms. Hufty replied. "Right now, it's not a friendly environment (riding to Town Hall) so it is not happening. If you can't provide the facility, it can't happen."

But how many would use it, Mr. Toben persisted, to which Ms. Hufty had no ready answer.

"They've been waiting a really long time for this," Councilwoman Maryann Derwin added.

Would the horses smell? Ms. Hufty said no, but some Town Hall staff think they would and say the proposed post is too near their windows, which open to the outside air. (The building has no air conditioning.) Keeping the windows closed is not the answer, said Brandi de Garmeaux, the town's coordinator for environmental initiatives, because the ventilation system would draw the odors inside.

When Town Hall was in a temporary building near the Historic Schoolhouse, Ms. Hufty noted, staff would come out and pet them.

In the meantime, riders are using an oak tree in a corner of the parking lot near Town Hall and the library, Ms. Hufty said.

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