Horse facility to reopen by March County parks director to reassure citizens, discuss renovations

October 20, 1998|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

County recreation planners will make an appearance in Linthicum today to soothe a community that has been fighting to preserve its equestrian center, reassuring them that the renovated site should reopen by March.

Tom Angelis, director of the county's Department of Recreation and Parks, said he will speak at a "celebration" at the Andover Equestrian Center this afternoon to update the community on the $400,000 in work on the center.

Neighborhood and 4-H Club leaders in Linthicum lobbied Angelis not to close the center permanently in January, after he announced in November that it would be shut temporarily while the county evaluated its operations.

"I want to tell the community that we had, in fact, been honest with them when they had perceived that when we shut it down, we would never reopen it," Angelis said. "I said, give me some time, let me get some money and I'm going to do it. We did what we said we were going to do."

County Executive John G. Gary and a leader of the Linthicum 4-H Club Hi-Riders, which uses the equestrian center, will also speak at the center at 2 p.m. today.

When Angelis announced the 25-acre center would close Jan. 30, he said his department had to shut it down because the private operator since 1992 had mismanaged the facility, falling behind on liability insurance payments and violating terms of her contract with the county, such as failing to provide regular financial reports.

Thirty horses stabled at the center were moved and programs such as a county-run therapeutic-riding clinic for disabled youths were relocated. While work has been under way, the county has kept the center partially open and made it available to 4-H clubs for clinics.

Angelis has assured residents and 4-H members that the center would reopen, but the topic galvanized the community. Residents criticized officials, saying the county was plotting to close the center, which they view as one of too few county amenities in northern Anne Arundel.

"Had the community not voiced its objections," said Susan March, president of the Linthicum-Shipley Improvement Association, "they may have closed it permanently."

Angelis said the county obtained money from the County Council in June and began fixing the center a week later. Contractors have built a training ring adjacent to the show ring, replaced fencing, built a new entrance and a new parking area, paved a gravel road, mowed, graded and seeded fields, and tested for lead at all buildings.

He said they've also begun rebuilding the stables and will start refurbishing the farm house, where the private operator had lived. He said the department will decide next week whether a county-employed ranger or the next private operator will live in the house.

Next month, the county will advertise in equestrian magazines for a private operator. Angelis said he has received 30 to 40 applications from as far as Chicago.

"We're pleased that they've continued to follow through on their desire to maintain it as an equestrian facility," March said. "Certainly no one's happy when you have to wait, but we understand that contracts have to be arranged and the appropriate facilities have to be designed and so on and so forth."

Pub Date: 10/20/98

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