Annapolis hopes to rein in the competition for state horse park development project

Moyer among backers of Crownsville location

July 27, 2005|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

As a Monday deadline for applications approaches, Annapolis is seeking to win a Maryland Stadium Authority competition for locating and developing a state horse park.

City officials hope to persuade the authority to approve the horse park for wooded watershed land known as the Waterworks property near Crownsville, as well as the adjacent site of a shuttered state psychiatric hospital. The tracts are located several miles northwest of the city line.

Mayor Ellen O. Moyer, who owns a few Kentucky thoroughbreds, is working with riding enthusiasts and volunteers on the proposal. Anne Arundel County is not expected to participate in the city horse park proposal or submit one of its own.

The stadium authority request for proposals outlines an elaborate future facility that would include an enclosed 5,000-seat arena, an outdoor amphitheater for equestrian competitions, museum space, as well as festival and fair stalls. The horse park would also offer trail riding, polo matches and steeple chases.

"This would be an amazing coup," Jan Hardesty, Moyer's spokeswoman, said, noting that stiff competition is expected from other parts of the state, including Montgomery and Harford counties.

Pinning her hopes on Annapolis is Chris Aist, 59, a recreational horseback rider for decades who loves the shade and serenity of the old beech forest on the city's Waterworks land.

"It's breathtaking here," she said as she walked through gravel and mud paths to show the way to trails that she and other riders have helped mark and map for restoration.

Aist, who is a volunteer with the Maryland Horse Council, said she and others on the trails and greenways committee would like to see the Waterworks used for nature classes and enjoyed by hikers and riders. The proposed site is near the Eisenhower Golf Course, the Maryland Renaissance Festival grounds and the county fairgrounds.

For years, access to the city-owned Waterworks property was limited to those who have permits. But Moyer, Aist and others are determined to open the historic property to recreational riding - even if Annapolis doesn't win the horse park. A site is to be announced Sept. 15.

A small federal transportation grant has recently helped the city to enhance patchy deer trails so the land may be opened up to wider recreational use.

"This is wonderful," Aist said, "the fact we're going to have trails, clear and ready to go."

Her friend Byrd Donaldson chimed in.

"Miles and miles of green," said Donaldson, an Annapolis resident and former science teacher who breeds Morgan horses. "Horseback riding would keep the South River greenway corridor undeveloped."

Moyer said she has long believed that more recreational riding would be an asset to the state capital, where sailing is the chief leisure sport.

"The potential for public land and open space is not new," Moyer said, noting that the city's master plan designates the Waterworks property for equestrian use.

Originally part of a land grant to Charles Carroll in Colonial days, the Annapolis Waterworks property has a mill that started supplying the state capital with water in 1865. The former Crownsville Hospital Center has buildings that could be adapted for reuse in designing a horse park facility, city officials said. The stadium authority will name a project architect today.

County and state officials have been corresponding about the future of the site, now owned by the state government.

Del. David G. Boschert, a Republican who represents Crownsville, said yesterday he would like to see the former hospital campus redeveloped as part of a future Maryland Horse Park.

"Anything we can do to enhance the site for the public good," Boshert said, adding he wrote a letter to the stadium authority backing the Annapolis bid.

J. Robert Burk, executive director of the state's Horse Industry Board, said the state's model for a central equestrian facility is based on Kentucky's state horse park in Lexington.

The proposed Maryland Horse Park would encompass 800 to 1,200 acres, say state officials, who estimate it could generate $100 million in economic activity.

Alison L. Asti, executive director of the stadium authority, said a seven-member committee will consider the topography of each proposed site and other criteria.

Asti said, "In terms of Maryland's history and tradition in the horse industry, this [future facility] brings it all together."

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