Guest opinion: Horse park deserves longtime permit
The Horse Park at Woodside is seeking a long-term extension of its current use permit at a Dec. 10 meeting of the county Planning Commission at 400 County Center, Redwood City.
Since October 2007, the horse park has been operating under a permit which must be renewed every six months. This puts a tremendous strain on both the time and manpower of all of the volunteers involved. There are only two full-time paid employees at the horse park, and the responsibility for the operation and organization of the programs at the facility falls on the shoulders of a dedicated cadre of volunteers.
The park is a 501(c) 3 charitable organization and relies on the generosity of its supporters. The short-term nature of the permit makes it extremely difficult to ask for major donations from interested individuals, as the future of the park is perceived to be uncertain.
The Horse Park serves thousands of children and adults each year. It is a unique facility which supports all equestrian disciplines and features the only cross country jumping course in Northern California. It is the training ground for Gina Miles, silver medal winner in the last Olympics, and many other Olympic hopefuls. It provides a home for BOK Ranch, a therapeutic riding program, and hundreds of young pony clubbers.
With the current encroachment of large homes onto what once were pastures and farms, it is an affordable facility which is open to the public and provides a safe environment away from the dangers involved when horses and riders meet motorcycles or bikers on the trails. Additionally, it preserves and protects 272 acres of open space, as well as the wildlife living therein, and adds to the rural, equestrian flavor of Woodside and neighboring Portola Valley.
The horse park has complied with dozens of county requirements and has developed a comprehensive land management plan for fire safety, manages undesirable native species while promoting native grasses, and considers the balance between functional use and aesthetic considerations. It has worked with local environmental and open-space organizations to achieve these ends.
Finally, the Horse Park is an asset to the county and local businesses, in that each time several hundred riders gather to compete, they patronize local hotels, motels, restaurants and merchants. As a past member of the Atherton City Council, I'm well aware of the need for safe, recreational facilities in our area. I encourage all interested parties to voice their support for this project and to attend the meeting on Dec. 10.
Nan Chapman lives in Woodside.