Md. seeks horse park land

June 08, 2005|by TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Washington County is looking for 500 to 1,200 acres to possibly become the site of a state horse park and, so far, the front runner for the nomination is the property that houses the county's Agricultural Education Center off Sharpsburg Pike.

Robert Mandley, project coordinator for the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission (EDC), told the County Commissioners on Tuesday that the Maryland Stadium Authority asked counties and municipalities to nominate property for a proposed Maryland horse park.

The horse park would be used for events such as steeplechase, fox chasing, endurance riding, show jumping, polo, rodeos, carriage driving, jousting, police horse training, trail riding and pony rides, according to a statement from the Maryland Stadium Authority.


The project includes at least one enclosed 5,000-seat arena; an outdoor amphitheater for equestrian competitions, festivals, fairs, trade shows and concerts; 6 to 12 outdoor show rings; and between 800 and 1,200 stalls. It will be designed to appeal to the large horse show market, according to the statement.

The Maryland Stadium Authority is conducting a feasibility study for the horse park. The study will determine the best location for a park, a preliminary plan, work schedule, budget and anticipated economic benefits resulting from a park, according to the statement.

Mandley said the location the EDC thought of immediately for a horse park was the Washington County Agricultural Education Center property, which is owned by the University of Maryland.

"They are not very pleased by it, but they would be open to discussion," Mandley said of the university.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval said the Education Center would have to be moved to accommodate a horse park.

"It would mean relocating," Kercheval said. "I don't think we'd want to get rid of the research center."

Kercheval said the property might have an advantage over other nominations because it is already used for agricultural purposes, because of its proximity to the highway and because it is owned by the state.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said after the meeting that the county leases the property for the Education Center from the University of Maryland.

Snook said the property is about 500 acres.

Mandley said the property meets the size requirements outlined by the Maryland Stadium Authority and it is accessible to Interstate 70.

He estimated that horse-related activities would draw about 7,000 people per event.

The Education Center hosts several events a year, including the Washington County Ag Expo, Mason Dixon Dog Show, Pygmy Goat Show and the Farm Toy Show, according to the county's Web site,

The Washington County Rural Heritage Museum, dedicated on May 12, 2000, is also on the property. The museum contains more than 2,000 items, including exhibits of a general store, an original Conestoga wagon, sleighs, sleds and a country church, according to the Web site.

Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said he opposed turning the Education Center into a horse park. He said he thought the county could find privately owned land to nominate.

Commissioner John C. Munson said he supported moving forward with nominating a site for a horse park, but that he wanted the commissioners to withdrawal support if it requires spending county money.

"It could be zero or it could be millions," Snook said.

According to the Maryland Horse Industry Board, horse competitions draw more spectators than any other sport in the state, and the equine industry has a statewide economic impact of $1.5 billion a year.

Sixty percent of the more than 87,000 horses in Maryland are used for recreational purposes, while 40 percent are used for racing, according to the Horse Industry Board.

The Herald-Mail Articles