Equestrian Keeps Spotlight On Brandon Policy


Like many of us, Linda Sax was somewhat caught by surprise when Tropical Storm Isaac’s annoying persistent rain bands visited a while back… and stayed.

Sax lives in The Acreage and boards her two horses with a friend. Although her land and pastures were underwater, the horses, at the friend’s house, were high and dry. But she saw many neighbors whose horses weren’t as lucky.

“My position is, I’m protecting, upholding and defending the rights of our equine partners in Palm Beach County,” she said. “When Isaac hit, a lot of horse people were in dire need of help. Not for themselves — for their horses. When the county made the two commercial properties with stabling available to us at Palm Meadows and Sunshine Meadows, my feeling was, great! These stables stepped up to the plate and opened their doors.”

However, Sax is worried about what could have happened if they hadn’t. “What if no one had had room? What will happen the next times there’s an emergency like this?” she asked. “I feel very strongly that the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center is a county facility which was paid for by all the taxpayers. It should have been made available, and it must be included in future emergency planning.”

Of course, that was not the case in the storm’s aftermath. “I know that, during Isaac, both the Palm Beach County Mounted Posse and the Acreage Horseman’s Association offered to help staff Jim Brandon, to supervise and police the grounds,” she said. “They were told, by officials, that Jim Brandon was ‘not a boarding facility.’ People didn’t want to board their horses there. They were trying to find someplace temporary, for a few days or a week, that wasn’t chest-deep in water.”

So, Sax decided to get involved.

“It takes a neighborhood to band together and help each other in times of crises. That’s what we did, but next time, I want things to be better. And that’s why I made phone calls and wrote e-mails,” Sax said.

She contacted every member of the Palm Beach County Commission, as well as County Administrator Robert Weisman. What she wanted was to get added to the Oct. 30 agenda of a planned county workshop. Her letters read, in part:

I would like to officially schedule on the agenda, a discussion regarding the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center… The facility was built for the equestrian community, since the land at the old Palm Beach Posse Grounds brought the county much money, and after a 50-year lease, it was no longer available to use as a horse show grounds… The stalls at Jim Brandon were dry and empty. Many people are outraged at this slight by the county to the equestrian community.

I need more than the 3 minutes at the end of a meeting to fully discuss the implications and disregard of the county and make a proposal. I would like to do this at your October meeting. Please provide the date, address and time of said meeting. Please pencil in at least 30 to 45 minutes for this discussion.

As county commissioners, you must be fully aware of the impact that the total equestrian community has on the economics and tax base of Palm Beach County. Think of the jobs, property taxes, boost to businesses including restaurants and feed/tack stores. Just about every business and hotel and restaurant is affected in one way or another by the total equestrian community. It sure would hurt Palm Beach County and its equestrians to acquire the reputation of our county commissioners to be known as the “I don’t care about horses” group. I would never want that to happen, and I’m sure none of the commissioners want that. I’m sure it is an oversight on your part on the Jim Brandon center that needs to be discussed and rectified. Let’s work on it at the October meeting!

She received replies from county staff member Kathy Peck, which said, in part: “The workshop is going to include different factors concerning storm/hurricane related issues, with the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center being included… Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention and they will be addressed at the joint workshop… The workshop is scheduled for Oct. 30, 2012 and will be held at 9:30 a.m. at the Government Center, 301 N. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach on the sixth floor in the chambers.”

Sax plans to attend and raise her concerns.

“My agenda is to make sure that Jim Brandon, a county equestrian facility, will be made available to the people who live in this county and need it in times of disaster: hurricanes, tropical storms, floods or wildfires,” she said. “There’s no reason we can’t work out a system or a plan. It can be done on a first-come, first-served basis. I’m sure other counties have plans in place which we can copy or modify and use here.”

She is hoping other horse owners will also attend the meeting and let their voices be heard. “But even if they don’t, I want them to know that I will be there for them. I’ve got their backs on this,” Sax said. “We need to band together as a community and let the commissioners know that we care about our animals, whether they’re horses or goats or pigs or chickens. They rely on us, and we have to do the best we can for them.”

If you would like to share any of your thoughts with Sax before the meeting on Oct. 30, e-mail her at kojola@gate.net.

“We taxpayers paid for that park. We use it in times of pleasure, for shows, and it should be made available in times of need,” Sax concluded. “We can handle the bedding, the feeding, the security and all the rest. We just need the county to step up to the plate and do the right thing: open those stalls.”