ITID Equestrian Committee Gets Reprieve, New Leadership

The ITID Board of Supervisors — (L-R) Keith Jordano, Elizabeth Accomando, Betty Argue, Michael Johnson and Patricia Farrell.

The Indian Trail Improvement District Board of Supervisors nearly put its Equestrian Trails Advisory Committee out to pasture at its Wednesday, April 17 meeting, but a last-minute restructuring of leadership saved the group for now.

ITID Vice President Patricia Farrell and Supervisor Keith Jordano agreed to become non-voting chair and vice chair of the committee. Supervisor Betty Argue’s motion to dissolve the committee then failed on a 3-2 vote.

“I think the committee needs more organization and to have the meetings run more smoothly… to keep everyone on track and on focus,” Farrell said this week.

“I was against abolishing it because we’ve put money and a lot of effort into it,” added Jordano, who has been attending its monthly meetings. “The meetings need to have a little more decorum and be run more efficiently.”

Argue was the prime mover behind the creation of the committee in May 2023. She explained this week that she continues to believe it is important for ITID to gather advice from local riders regarding equestrian-related issues but feels they are being hamstrung by Florida’s strict Sunshine Law, mainly that members cannot talk with each other about issues outside of a formal meeting.

“I think [committee members] would like to have the freedom go out, talk among themselves in a less formal way and come back with recommendations,” Argue said, adding that the restructuring “runs contrary to the whole objective of having a citizens committee not controlled or directed by the board.”

ITID Executive Director Burgess Hanson said, however, that it is important for the board to maintain the committee as a district entity.

“When we apply for [equestrian-related] grants, it makes a difference that the advisory committee is part of the district,” he said.

Hanson said Argue’s original idea to create a committee focused on enhancing and expanding the district’s trail system was a good one, and he was glad the group was not eliminated.

“There are some very good, very dedicated individuals on the committee,” he said. “They can do a lot of good things in future.”

Historically, most of the equestrian trails in the Acreage/Loxahatchee area have been along dirt roads and in swales, but with population growth and increased traffic, that has become more dangerous.

Jordano said it’s clear that the area’s equestrian trails need to be redone, and that falls under the district’s mandate to oversee drainage, roads, parks and recreation.

“Some of the trails are next to some very busy roads… Cars, trucks and horses don’t mix,” he said, while adding that there is an economic component to improving the trails that is often overlooked.

“We have a very dedicated and vocal horse community,” Jordano said. “If we can come up with a good trail system, it will bring in more equestrians who’ll invest in the community.”

Also at the April 17 meeting, the supervisors reached a compromise between the Acreage Athletic League and Breakthru Athletics regarding the use of Acreage Community Park for flag football practices.

Breakthru will be allowed to use the park fields for its travel team practice on Saturday afternoons, while most Breakthru activities will be shifted to Citrus Grove Park at 8501 Avocado Blvd. through December, ITID President Elizabeth Accomando said.

Some refurbishing of the fields at Citrus Grove will be done, and temporary lighting will be installed, Hanson said.

This was the latest flair up in a clash between the AAL, which has held a service provider agreement (SPA) with ITID for some 30 years, and the breakaway Breakthru league, which began flag football operations in 2022. The AAL runs multiple sports leagues, including soccer, basketball, baseball, softball, and girls and co-ed flag football.

AAL President Wendy Rojas said Wednesday that her group also is looking to start a 5-on-5 boys flag football program and an “extreme adult league” for women over 18.

“We understand that [the park] is a community park, and we all want to use it,” she said, but added that between practices, games, field maintenance and necessary field down time, it’s hard to see how sharing the fields could work. “It would be problematic.”

Alex Tirado, who coaches an AAL basketball team, told supervisors, “A competing league coming into Acreage Community Park will create confusion and conflict that is not necessary.”

“People have put many, many years of their life into [the AAL],” resident Ron Flores told the supervisors. “I don’t ask for a pat on the back, but I don’t like a slap in the face either.”

Jordano said the focus needs to remain on the young athletes.

“They are the ones who need to be put first. I’d like to see everyone work together,” he said.

Farrell, who has been critical of the AAL’s operating procedures, noted Wednesday that there will be a workshop July 15 at 6 p.m. to discuss with AAL representatives the future of the organization’s service provider agreement. The SPA was recently extended to Nov. 15.

Also at the meeting, the board approved revisions to the 54-page Parks & Recreation Facility Use & Rental Policies manual. “The purpose of the Facility Use & Rental Policy revision is to ensure that park service capacity is allocated in a fair and equitable manner,” staff explained. “Fees charged for the use of district facilities and parks are intended to partially recoup ongoing maintenance and operation costs.”