Users of the North County Equestrian Park voiced their concerns with the county-owned property and discussed ways to improve it during a town hall on Tuesday evening.
The town hall, which was hosted by Utah County Commissioner Bill Lee, took place two weeks after park users complained that the park has been “neglected” and lacks the resources needed to make the park usable during a commission work session.
While the county maintains the park on a regular basis, including watering the indoor arena and washing the pavilion tables, officials haven’t approved changes or improvements to the park since 2005, according to Bryce Armstrong, associate director of Utah County Community Development.
Marylee Tanner and Jemima Street, two equestrians who have led the charge in advocating for better management of the park, outlined changes they would like to see, including the arena footing being fixed, the ground being worked on a daily basis and enforcement of rules prohibiting motor vehicles on trails or off-leash dogs in the park.
Additionally, Tanner and Street said they wanted the county to form a committee of volunteers to “approve new rules and enforce current rules.” The county formed an equestrian operating committee around 2003 but it dissolved over the next few years.
The equestrians also recommended the county make safety improvements, including posting signs, fixing the doors at the riding arena, installing automatic or motion-activated lights, and either getting rid of or keeping the park gate open.
The town hall also touched on what users “want to see with the Equestrian Park’s future,” including whether it should remain county-owned and operated and whether it should be “annexed and purchased” by Highland, American Fork or Lehi.
Other ideas discussed included selling part of the property to private developers to develop a community center, soccer field, pickleball court, dog park or Frisbee golf course.
“We feel like there’s nothing in our end of the county that we can have or replace this (with) if it’s gone,” Tanner said. “So for us, it’s like a part-time job we’ve taken on because we don’t want to see this facility go away.”
Street noted that “there are a lot of people that don’t have the opportunity or the means to own horses and have access to them.”
“So having a facility that people can come and teach lessons to those kids that wouldn’t be able to go and see a horse or ever ride a horse, that is a huge asset to the community,” she said.
The Utah County Commission considered selling the North County Equestrian Park in 2019 as a way to balance the county budget.
At the town hall, Lee said he previously believed that the park was being “underutilized” by the community but changed his position when he began talking with equestrians who use the park.
“And here’s the things that I found: one, it is utilized; two, the reason why we’re not seeing the use by (a) money (metric) is because of management, which is county management, frankly,” the commissioner said.
Dozens of residents attended the town hall, which was held in the indoor riding arena at the park.