By Carol Porter
Wellington’s Equestrian Preserve Committee held a workshop meeting Wednesday, Feb. 5 to discuss a number of items, but foremost was the status of polo fields in the greater Wellington area.
Assistant Planning, Zoning & Building Director Michael O’Dell, the committee’s staff liaison, asked for input on where polo fields are located within the region, which also includes nearby communities such as Loxahatchee Groves and other areas.
The polo field survey is part of a larger effort to quantify the local impact of the equestrian industry. While there are straight-forward ways to survey horses and riders in the more regulated show jumping and dressage communities, quantifying the number of horses and people involved in polo has been more of a challenge.
O’Dell has been working to develop maps that show the impact of the equestrian industry and polo in the Village of Wellington. For polo, that also includes activities as simple as stick-and-ball play and smaller groups of people playing and practicing in a less-organized manner.
O’Dell said that Wellington is trying to wrap up its data collection efforts so it would have a baseline of what to look for as is it moves forward.
“We are tracking the number of people and horses that are competing,” O’Dell said. “The number of fields show an investment. Polo is continuing to move around in the village. You are moving from one field to the next. It takes a number of fields to make that happen. This is just another way of showing how they can stay here and compete in Wellington. Over time, we will be able to expand outward. This is just a way of seeing what has changed and what hasn’t.”
Looking over O’Dell’s maps, Committee Member Dr. Kristy Lund said that this was the first time she had seen data like this. She was surprised at how many fields there were in Wellington and in neighboring communities.
Some committee members commented on the quality of several of the listed fields, noting the muck on some of them. Committee Member Carlos Arellano suggested that the village do a map of sections 28 and 34 and see whether the fields there were being used for dressage or hunter/jumper activities.
Committee Chair Jane Cleveland said that she was happy with the report and that village staff had been very helpful in getting all the data in that was needed.
“You were a super help in getting the data for WEF,” Cleveland said. “We need this information. We are all happy with it. We will do that again in the summer.”
On to other topics, committee members and O’Dell once again spoke about horse waste and what to do with it. The item has been an ongoing issue for decades. O’Dell said that village staff had met recently with people about how to better dispose of it, and they were making progress on the issue.
O’Dell said that the village is looking into ways of removing ammonia from the horse waste and creating revenue at the same time.
“We are continuing to meet with people,” O’Dell said. “We met with some people in September. They brought another twist into it. It’s the first time we have heard about generating revenue. They were considering using steam to remove the ammonia from the waste, which would make it a sellable product in the agricultural industry. We are pursuing that scenario right now.”
O’Dell said that Wellington has gotten some calls about illegal dumping, and they are following up on those.
Cleveland asked about improvements planned for Pierson Road and South Shore Blvd., and what progress had been made with them, as well as improvements along Gene Mische Way and the southern access point to the horse show.
O’Dell said that progress has been slow. “We are waiting for the improvements to get done,” he said. “The developers are taking advantage of the delays.”
Cleveland asked about whether staff could send the equestrian permit requests to the committee for their review and consideration. O’Dell said that if the committee wants certain permits to come before them, they could request the Wellington Village Council to send them to the committee for their review. The committee then voted 6-1 to make that request.
Committee Member Annabelle Garrett brought up the issue of traffic along Lake Worth Road, an ongoing problem during the season, and that perhaps a traffic light could be installed at 120th Avenue South and Lake Worth Road. She said the intersection has become dangerous and is very hard to traverse in the daytime hours.
“The only time you can pass is midnight,” she said. “It’s really a dangerous intersection.”
Committee members also commented on a recent controversy with the Mall at Wellington Green in which the mall had accepted large banner advertisements for equestrian activities in Ocala, which was not helpful to the community in Wellington. They said they were glad to see that the banners had been removed.