The American Fork City Council unanimously approved a resolution on Tuesday voicing the city’s support for “the preservation and continued operation of the North Utah County Equestrian Park to be maintained and open to the public without additional private commercial or residential development.”
The property in question, owned and operated by Utah County, is a 37-acre park complete with indoor and outdoor horse-riding arenas, pavilions, trails and an obstacle course. The Utah County Commission considered selling the north Utah County park in December 2019 in an effort to balance the county budget.
A few months later, a petition launched online to “urge the County and legislature to leave the Equestrian Park as-is and change management practices to maintain and improve the existing arenas, trails, and stalls.”
“The Utah County Equestrian Park is one of the largest public equestrian parks in the State of Utah,” stated the petition, which has garnered more than 4,500 signatures. “Selling the park and eliminating the equestrian facility would impact thousands of people who depend on the horse industry for not only income but a way of life.”
During a Highland City Council meeting on Jan. 5, Mayor Rod Mann stated that he spoke with a developer who wants to build a recreation center at the park, which runs through Highland, Lehi and American Fork.
Mann said he told the developer “I do not want to get into a war with my neighboring mayors” and “put the onus on him” to talk to Lehi Mayor Mark Johnson and American Fork Mayor Brad Frost “independently to sell them on the idea of ‘We could use this as a rec center, plus what you want to do.’ ”
On Tuesday, Frost said he was concerned that there had been “a little bit of a fracturing of the equestrian community, where one (side) thinks that, in order to facilitate and keep the equestrian park open, that commercial development is needed.”
“And I’m hoping that, as we consider this resolution, that the county would be open to talk with us and negotiate to see how we can move forward,” Frost told the American Fork City Council.
The resolution put forward during Tuesday’s city council meeting states that the North Utah County Equestrian Park “is a regional facility benefitting all residents of the County and surrounding communities” and “represents a limited area of available public open space and multi-use trail network.”
Councilmember Clark Taylor said he’s received “many emails and calls” from American Fork residents that oppose development at the park.
“And they’ve all been unanimous in their plea for us to preserve this,” Taylor said.
Though American Fork doesn’t own the equestrian park, Councilmember Staci Carroll said the resolution shows the city’s “formal support” for “keeping open space.”
“And I am a hundred percent behind that aspect,” Carroll said.
Councilmember Barbara Christiansen spoke about growing up next to the park and said it hasn’t changed since she was a kid.
“It’s been there for generation upon generation,” Christiansen said. “And it takes foresight to do this.”
Mark Allen of Protect and Preserve American Fork Canyon, which pushed for a conservation easement for Bridal Veil Falls in December 2020, thanked the city council for “leading out once again to help preserve open space for those that don’t have a voice.”
“I think there’s other options where to put a recreation center,” Allen told the city council.