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Horse enthusiasts want more room to ride in Washington County parks and recreation plan

March 19, 2012|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com

BOONSBORO — Citizens emphasized the need for more places in Washington County to ride horses during a public meeting Monday night on a proposed county plan for land preservation, parks and recreation.

A 2010 Maryland Equine Census said there were 3,750 horses, ponies, mules, donkeys and burros in Washington County, but Keedysville resident Sharon Draper said she thinks that number is too low.

Although Draper said there are many horse owners in the county, Boonsboro resident Charleen Jones said places in the county to ride horses are limited.

Jones said horses can be ridden on the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, although another person during the meeting said the towpath is often “a field day for loose dogs.”

Draper emphasized the need for more places to ride horses, saying many horse owners in the county go to other counties to ride.

“Washington County is beautiful. The potential is here,” Draper said.

Jill Baker, a senior planner for the county, said Monday night was the first time she had heard about the need for more horse-riding areas and said she was excited to make it part of county consideration.

The proposed county park plan, updated every six years, is a requirement for the county to use funding from Maryland Program Open Space and to comply with a federal land and water conservation law. The current update would replace a version adopted in 2005.

The plan analyzes existing park and recreation facilities, and makes recommendations for land acquisition, park development and fulfillment of recreational needs.

Monday’s public hearing at the Eugene C. Smith Community Center is one of three public meetings on the proposed plan. The second meeting will be March 27 in Clear Spring and the third will be March 29 in Hagerstown.

Jim Sterling, director of parks and facilities for the county, said there has been consideration for expanded horse riding through the establishment of a trail at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center near Sharpsburg. Sterling said trees from storm damage have been shredded and saved as possible material for a trail. There also has been consideration of expanding the riding ring at the center for horse riding, Sterling said.

By bringing up the need for more horse-riding areas now, the issue can be considered for not only the long-range parks plan but for land the county currently owns, Sterling said.

One man who spoke during the meeting said horse trails can create problems for runners. The man said he once hurt his ankle while running on a horse trail.

Baker talked about adaptive reuses of land for recreation, like possibly using some buffer land around Hagerstown Regional Airport for walking paths. Former landfills can be used for ball fields, Baker said.

Baker said public input on a parks plan is vital because county officials don’t want to establish park facilities that people will be forced to like.

“We want this to be successful for you. We want this to be successful for the county,” Baker said.

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