As Wellington begins to update its Equestrian Master Plan, residents — equestrians or not — are invited to provide input during two public forums this month.
On Monday, April 16 and Monday, April 23 at 6:30 p.m., residents can voice their opinions on the area’s equestrian future at meetings held at the Wellington municipal complex.
The update is a way to provide a road map for the future of the Wellington Equestrian Preserve as it continues to grow, said Michael O’Dell, who is overseeing the Equestrian Master Plan.
Though staff members already have been surveying the equestrian community at local venues, O’Dell stressed the need for input from pleasure riders — those who use Wellington’s extensive equestrian amenities such as bridle trails but don’t necessarily compete.
“That segment of the community is what is missing right now from our survey information,” he said. “We are trying to target the folks who enjoy riding around Wellington. We want their input.”
The Equestrian Master Plan will help Wellington as the equestrian community continues to grow.
“The northern half of Wellington, from Pierson Road northward, was a planned community,” O’Dell told the Town-Crier Monday. “If you look back, the concept for the southern half was supposed to be ‘ranchettes.’ You’d have a house, a barn… but the rest would be left at grade. It would be mostly open pastures. It was for the backyard type of pasture areas and pleasure riding.”
At that time, O’Dell said, Wellington was not the competitive equestrian destination it is today.
“We didn’t have equestrian venues,” he said. “No one, at the time, was thinking of the competitive riding aspect of the industry. Thirty years later, here we are. The equestrian industry in Wellington is heavily driven by competition.”
Because there was no concrete plan in place for the growth of the Wellington Equestrian Preserve, some concerns still need to be addressed.
“We have these competition facilities,” O’Dell said, “and the need to get to and from these venues for both vehicle and equestrian traffic has created problems for us.”
The intersection of Pierson Road and South Shore Blvd. is a particularly problematic spot, he said. “We have to evaluate how we cross roads,” O’Dell said. “Is there a better solution?”
Other problems Wellington has encountered include removal of horse waste.
“The horse is a great ambassador for us here in Wellington,” he said. “But it also creates great problems for us in the form of horse waste. That’s what we’re looking at from a master plan view. We want to look at what is needed to continue to give value to the community, but also to identify those constraints we’ll have as we continue to grow.”
Already, Wellington staffers have been studying the equestrian community, which has the potential to double in size, O’Dell said.
Currently, Wellington has 8,500 permanent stalls, with another 3,000 to 4,000 temporary stalls added during season. Every year, between 12,000 and 14,000 horses come through Wellington during the competitive season, while about 3,000 to 4,000 of them stay year-round.
“We’re basically saying, ‘Here’s where we are. Here are the venues, the traffic situation, and here’s the projection of where we could be going,’” O’Dell said.
There are still about 600 properties, which are either single-family homes with no equestrian use, or vacant land with no identifiable use that could be used for future growth.
“Those properties could, over time, be transmitted and converted into equestrian uses,” O’Dell said. “We have looked at the development of the 3,500 permanent stalls and 500-plus farms over the years to look for a trend. If the pattern for development remained, we could end up with between 4,000 and 6,000 more permanent stalls in Wellington. That’s getting close to double the current stalls — about 75 to 80 percent more.”
The Equestrian Master Plan will give Wellington the chance to evaluate the guidelines already in place and how they affect the community, as well as consider new policies in the preserve.
“That’s part of the debate, and part of what we need to talk about,” he said. “In the [preserve], we have restricted ourselves purposely. None of the roads are more than two lanes. But we’re looking at the traffic volumes, and asking if it makes sense.”
O’Dell pointed to the Little Ranches community on Wellington’s northeastern border, where residents have extensive bridle paths within their community but are effectively cut off by Forest Hill Blvd.
“They can’t cross safely,” he said.
The meetings will be a chance for residents to provide input, address concerns and contribute to the plan.
“The point right now is for people to give us ideas,” O’Dell said. “It’s not only to tell us about concerns but also to tell us about ideas that need to be done. Some people say they need the roads paved. Others say don’t pave their roads. We’re going to be analyzing those comments so we can have additional meetings this fall.”
In addition to the meetings, planning students from Florida Atlantic University — who are helping to develop the plan — will be surveying residents at the Wellington Green Market over the next few Saturdays.
“We’re trying to get the community involved in the process,” O’Dell said.
For more information, call O’Dell at (561) 791-4000.