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March 16, 2005

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Publication Date: Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Woodside Horse Park set to grow Woodside Horse Park set to grow (March 16, 2005)

** County grants permits to board horses, add stables and hold events.

By Andrea Gemmet

Almanac Staff Writer

Last week brought a double-dose of good news to representatives of the Horse Park at Woodside, who exulted that the equestrian facility's future is now secure.

After two years of operating on temporary permits while trying to legalize activities that had grown haphazardly, without proper oversight, the equestrian event center was granted the permits it needs to board horses, add stables and hold events.

The permits were granted on a 5-0 vote of the San Mateo County Planning Commission at its March 9 meeting.

Also last week, Stanford granted the Horse Park an extended lease on the 270-acre property it occupies, located off Sand Hill Road just west of Interstate 280, according to Tracy Byars, the Horse Park's development director. The new lease extends to September 2017, said Ms. Byars. In the past, she said, the lease has been a year-to-year agreement.

"We're very excited about all of our good news, and now we're very well-positioned to reach our goal of being a top-quality, multi-use equestrian facility that really serves the local community," Ms Byars said.

Since 1981 the Combined Training Equestrian Team Alliance (CTETA) has leased what's known locally as Stanford's Guernsey Field property for "eventing" -- competitions with cross-country jumping, stadium jumping, and dressage -- as well as a wide variety of other equestrian activities, including hunter-jumpers, polo, carriage driving, and western reining. Pony clubs and other educational groups also use the facility.

The Planning Commission imposed a number of conditions on the Horse Park but essentially legalized most of the past construction and grading, and paved the way for even larger events in the future, once traffic-flow improvements are made.

Ms. Byars said the largest event held last year had 300 participants. This year's upcoming event season might have as many as 350 at a couple of the hunter-jumper competitions or at "Reining by the Bay," a western reining competition, she said. The permit would eventually allow up to 800 people at events.

"One thing the county understood, over time, is that none of our events are spectator events -- they are participant events," she said. "Each participant might have a spectator or two, but (the events) run over many days, so they are not all there at once."

Under the permit, which must be renewed in two years, the Horse Park was granted permission to permanently stable up to 100 horses on the property, as well as temporarily stable up to 430 horses during events.

New buildings allowed under the use permit include a horse stable, a maintenance barn, and an 8,000-square-foot composting facility that is expected to divert tons of horse manure from local landfill.
Complaints triggered shutdown

Horse Park neighbors Joan Baez and Eric Brandenburg, as well as the Committee for Green Foothills, complained to county officials about illegal grading projects, a huge increase in events since 1998, and other problems. Of particular concern to them was run-off into Bear Gulch Creek from rainy season grading activities, and the practice of spreading horse manure on the property's trails.

Regarding intense development concentrated in the field on the property near Whiskey Hill Road, Ms. Baez and Mr. Brandenburg wrote in a 2002 letter: "The effect of this development has been to create an eyesore patchwork of trails, horse trailers, trucks, semi-trailers, roads, jumps, Port-a-potties, dumpsters, etc. The effect on the native grasses and environment of the field has been tremendous."

In January 2003, county officials temporarily halted all activity at the event center, then granted temporary permits authorizing limited uses while Horse Park representatives worked on applications for permits.

At the time, it had operated for 22 years without permits, and when Horse Park representatives approached the county five years earlier, they were told no permits were needed, said Penny Gallo, then-president of the board of governors.

As it turns out, the county determined that three permits were needed: a use permit, a grading permit and a confined animal, or stable, permit.
Capital campaign

The county's multiple conditions on the Horse Park, which include environmental protection measures, appear to have satisfied the critics. Lennie Roberts of the Committee for Green Foothills and Ms. Baez testified in favor of the permits at the Planning Commission meeting, along with a number of other Horse Park supporters, said Ms. Byars.

Even with the conditions, Horse Park officials got 98 or 99 percent of what they wanted, said Ms. Byars.

"We don't know if we will ever be able to use the trails on the back side of the property near (Interstate) 280 for events, but that is the only thing we didn't get. We didn't make a big deal of it; it's not a deal-breaker for us," she said.

With some positive attention focused on the Horse Park, directors have decided to kick off a $4 million capital campaign to finance a number of improvements. About $1.1 million has already been raised from the "Save the Horse Park" initiative, started when the county's crackdown appeared to threaten the facility's future, said Ms. Byars.

The biggest project is to completely renovate the eight arenas, repair and improve the fencing and plant landscape screening around them, she said.
INFORMATION

For information on Horse Park events, go to horsepark.org.


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