Equestrian Committee Seeks Additional Funding For Trail Improvements

Wellington’s equestrian advisory panel has recommended more than $3 million in improvements to the village’s bridle trails, but jockeying over details such as which projects deserve the most urgent attention continued apace through the board’s last meeting Wednesday, March 6.

The Equestrian Preserve Committee voted 5-0 to approve an overall budget plan with recommendations to move up roadway and trail safety signs in horse country to the first year of a three-year spending plan, as opposed to the second year.

“Roadway signage is an easy thing to implement and have the most return on your buck,” Committee Vice Chair Haakon Gangnes said.

The Wellington Village Council is expected to vote on an updated slate of recommended trail projects, perhaps in May.

Since 1999, Wellington has been home to more than 100 miles of public and private bridle trails. A village web site lists 15 riding trails maintained by the village, many with colors such as Pink and Purple in their names, with a new Orchid Trail under consideration in the latest round of proposals.

Committee members also recommended a full stop at mid-block horse crossings on Pierson Road and Gracida Way, as opposed to flashing warnings.

The discussion deals with budgeting for capital improvements as part of the Equestrian Trails Circulation Master Plan.

Some projects have fallen down the list as they drew less enthusiastic support from committee members or others in the community. Those dropping out of favor for the moment include a Flying Cow Road Multi-Use Pathway improvement, originally estimated to cost $100,000, and a culvert crossing over the C8 Canal in Little Ranches, once pegged at $250,000.

Committee Member Dr. Kristy Lund noted that the proposed canal crossing, for example, might bring non-horse traffic such as dirt bikers into the community, while the horse path itself is not one of the more heavily used circuits.

A different canal crossing popped into the project list near 130th Avenue South and 60th Street South, at the far south end of Wellington, connecting existing paths with the prospective Orchid Trail and potentially costing about $400,000.

That drew some questions. Gangnes said there were other places available to cross the canal in that area and budgets are limited.

“Is that the best utilization of money?” he asked.

Committee Member Annabelle Garrett said she did not want to rush forward with new trails before she was sure that the village, as opposed to private property owners, controls the necessary land.

Another late addition to the project list is drainage and bridle trail improvement on Acme Road in Little Ranches, costing about $750,000. The idea there is to fill existing roadside swale and enhance pipe drainage. The point is to create more space for horses and get them away from uncomfortable proximity to vehicular traffic.

Initiatives to create safer horse crossings on Gracida Street have been complicated by recent events. The council recently approved an expanded showgrounds plan, and the deal covers certain road improvements for which the developers will be responsible.

Committee Chair Glen Fleischer asked whether staff could request that the developers make Gracida a priority in their plans. Staff members advised they would not necessarily have much leverage there, as agreements are already in place with a 2028 deadline on various improvements in the showgrounds area.

The adjustments came with tweaks in the proposed budget. For example, a study to count traffic on the trail system could receive $100,000, doubling an earlier amount.

Committee Member Dr. Rachel Eidelman asked if Wellington could make it easier to find a map of bridle trails online, as well as listing ways to contact village staff directly when parts of the trail need maintenance or safety attention.