It has to be safety first when it comes to plans for the Nicole Hornstein Equestrian Park, the Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors agreed at a special meeting on Wednesday, March 10. That means plans for a covered arena will have to be shelved for now with the focus shifted to improved fencing.
“Safety is paramount,” ITID President Betty Argue said. The decayed vinyl fencing that now surrounds the park “severely limits what we can do there,” said Argue as the ITID board considered a revised site plan.
The board had requested revisions after ITID Executive Director Burgess Hanson and his team presented a preliminary site plan at the board’s regularly scheduled meeting Feb. 17. Under both plans, the current fencing would be removed and a new multi-rail wooden fence would be installed around the entire park, located on Hamlin Blvd. between Grapeview Blvd. and Hall Blvd.
“The fencing is the most important aspect of [the site plan],” Hanson said. “It’s our last line of defense… We can’t permit a horse and rider to get out on a road.”
The district recently was awarded a $400,000 grant through the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund program to assist with upgrades at the park, which will cover the $106,000 in new fencing and some other improvements.
However, even if fully dedicated to the arena project, the money would fall considerably short of the $650,000 to $700,000 price tag for a covered arena, according estimates gathered by ITID staff. That estimate does not include the concrete footer and installation, lighting, exhaust fans or seating, or any permit or design costs.
When Martin County undertook a similar project at Timer Powers Park in Indiantown in 2014, officials there allocated $2.2 million to construct a covered, lighted arena, plus install permanent bleachers, water lines and restrooms, according to WPTV, which reported on the decision at the time.
While Argue remains committed to creating a covered arena at the park, “it doesn’t look like we can do it in this phase,” she said.
“We absolutely want to do it, but we don’t want to have to raise taxes or assessments to do it,” Argue said. “There’s no way to do it now without significant financial impact… We’ll have to look for other grant opportunities.”
Still, much can be done. Aside from the fencing, the revised site plan proposes an enlarged barrel racing arena with a proper chute and improved footing, a cross-country/eventing trail, a resizing of the “round pen” used for lunging and training, a designated dressage area, an additional wash station and a walkway for pedestrians.
While scaled back so as not to impede riders and their horses, the walkway would meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) criteria and connect the main entrance to the restrooms, playground, main arena bleachers and the east side of the west arena, according to a report prepared by Parks & Recreation Director Elizabeth Ricci.
“The barrel arena was never built properly and needs to be fixed,” Argue noted. “Whatever we do, I want to make sure we’re providing added benefit, not just throwing good money after bad.”
The eventing trail is new to the latest iteration of the site plan. Eventing is an endurance discipline with obstacles, usually combined with a three-day event for dressage, jumping and cross country.
As described by Ricci in a memo to the supervisors, “The trail meanders throughout the perimeter of the entire park, including areas by the barn structure. The course would be designed to not interfere with spectators at the arenas or with other amenities within the park.”
The eventing course, which would be scaled to fit the park, could be created during a future phase of park improvements and be done by ITID staff and volunteers, Ricci noted.
The supervisors unanimously accepted the revised site plan.
In other business:
• The board approved a local governmental relations consulting services agreement with Geoffrey B. Sluggett & Associates at a cost of $6,500 per month ($45,500 for fiscal year 2021 and $78,000 for fiscal year 2022).
• The board approved an agreement with Craig A. Smith & Associates for additional engineering services in support of litigation against Rosso Site Development. CAS has been the engineer of record and contract construction manager for Acreage Community Park’s southern expansion since its initiation in 2016 and is “an invaluable resource with direct knowledge of all aspects of the park development process,” according to a staff memo.
• Argue noted that the Toby Keith tribute concert by Beer for My Horses set for Sunday, April 11 at Acreage Community Park will begin at 6:30 p.m. The event is part of the Rock Your Park concert series sponsored by the Acreage Landowners’ Association.