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Equestrian center plan is scrapped

July 22, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

Hagerstown City Council members decided on Tuesday not to include an equestrian center at the Hagerstown Fairgrounds and to further study the idea of a basketball center there.

Concerns about safety, traffic, size and operating cost led city planning and engineering officials to recommend not including an equestrian center, said City Engineer Bruce Johnston.

Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein asked City Planner Ric Kautz to keep in touch with equestrian supporters since she hated to lose such an opportunity.

City officials said they might be able to find another spot for an equestrian center, such as the Washington County Agricultural Education Center.

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Betty Smith, a spokeswoman for several equestrian supporters, could not be reached for comment on Tuesday night.

City employees visited Meadowbrook Stables in Chevy Chase, Md., about two months ago for research, Johnston said.

Chevy Chase officials didn't recommend a horse center near activities such as soccer and BMX because the horses don't like the noise and action, and there's the possibility a horse could get loose, Johnston said.

Tractor-trailer-size horse trailers wouldn't be good in a residential neighborhood either, he said.

Johnston also said an equestrian center wouldn't attract enough events unless it was larger than the proposed one.

Council gave the OK to review a suggestion by Steven Spalding to offer basketball courts in the grandstands for the Hagerstown Junior Basketball League.

Three courts could fit in a center created by demolishing part of the grandstands and building a new roof and sides to a recreation center, city officials said.

That option is estimated to cost $1.6 million compared with razing the entire grandstands and building a new recreation center for $2.4 million.

After the presentation Spalding said the league had to turn away youths and couldn't start a developmental league because they didn't have enough space.

He said it was a good problem to have since the space in public schools was being used by an expanding basketball program, including girls basketball.

City officials will update the County Commissioners on plans for the Fairgrounds at next Tuesday's joint meeting and present a new concept plan for the 68 acres in four to six weeks.

Hagerstown Police Athletic League is playing roller hockey there and a practice soccer field will be ready this year near the ice rink, Johnston said.

Johnston said he doesn't expect any further recreational activity to be available at the Fairgrounds this year.

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