Equestrian center supporters protest closing Arundel official insists action is temporary

January 15, 1998|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

More than 100 Linthicum residents, county 4-H leaders and horse lovers showed up at Lindale-Brooklyn Park Middle School last night to demand answers from county officials about the future of the Andover Equestrian Center.

During the monthly meeting of the Linthicum Improvement Association, dozens of the center's supporters pressed the county Parks and Recreation Department to say definitely when it will reopen the facility, which will close temporarily on Jan. 31 so that the county can assess its management and whether the building needs any structural improvements.

The supporters demanded to know if and when the department planned to reopen the facility, which is located next to the school and is used almost daily by the Linthicum 4-H Hi-Riders and a county therapeutic riding program for disabled children.

"When I heard they were going to close the place, I was so upset I cried," said Rebecca Lyons, 22, who has mild cerebral palsy and Tourette's syndrome and participated in the therapeutic riding program for several years.

"I felt like I had grown up at that place," she said.

Tom Angelis, director of the Parks and Recreation Department, repeatedly told supporters that the center would be closed only temporarily.

"I emphasize the word temporarily because that is our absolute intent," he said, adding that he had given Anne Harris, director of the therapeutic riding program, "one work mission" and that is to look for another place to conduct lessons.

He said while the center is closed, the county will "assess the facility, its operational needs and its structure."

Angelis announced the center's closing in mid-November, saying was poorly managed.

The county owns the 25 acres on which the center sits but contracts it out to concessionaires to manage horse boarding facilities and provide riding lessons and a venue for 4-H and therapeutic riding programs.

Since Angelis announced the closing, 4-H leaders and supporters, who have used the facility for years, have been lobbying county delegates and council members to keep it open.

Before last night's meeting, Angelis said he was glad of the opportunity to dispel the misconception that the center would not reopen.

State Del. Michael W. Burns, who represents the north county, said he attended the meeting to show his support for the center.

"It's not like we have a lot of amenities in northern Anne Arundel County," Burns said. "If they have management problems, you ** don't close the facility, you change the management."

Susan Hull, a 4-H leader who has vehemently opposed the center's closing, was not optimistic after the meeting.

"It's vague," she said. "They say they're going to reopen it, but they won't say what it's going to be. It could just be an empty park that you could rent for horse shows."

Pub Date: 1/15/98

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