Really? Dallas Needs a $25 Million Horse Park?

Vonciel Hill shovels a load of manure boosting plans for a publicly financed horse park.

This is how far behind the curve I am. The Dallas City Council is tied up in knots debating how to develop a successful horse park in a poor part of the city. I'm asking myself, "What the hell is a horse park?"

Is it like a dog park? People take their horses, let them off the leash, and the horses romp around nipping each other in the butt? Do horses have leashes?

I don't really know from horses. What is this, the Old West? I thought if you wanted a horsey, you had to keep it in the country. I thought that was why they called it the country. This is the city. Right?

Somebody wants the city to build a horse park along the Trinity River between Loop 12 and Highway 175 in a very poor African-American and Latino part of southern Dallas. At the last city council meeting, council member Vonciel Hill, who represents part of this area, pointed to things the city has built in more affluent areas of town, like downtown. Hill said it was a shame the city couldn't bring the same measure of commitment to a horse park in southern Dallas.

Oh, damn. Now I'm in trouble. I'm a liberal. I want southern Dallas to get everything North Dallas gets, but I don't want the city to build a horse park in North Dallas either. Know why? Because it's a damn horse park.

I went to liberal school. I took Liberal 101, Liberal 201, the special liberal seminar and laboratory course where you get to dissect stuff. I got a degree in liberal. I do not remember anyone mentioning horse parks.

I looked up some data on the area where they want to build the horse park. Well, wait, I don't actually even know if you do build a horse park. What would you build? I assume it's not like Six Flags. Surely it doesn't involve horses riding Ferris wheels.

I know people love their horses, but I don't even want to think about people leading their horses around by the hoof buying them cotton candy and glow sticks. That's too sick.

The most recent data I could find for the ZIP code around the proposed horse park is from 2009. It shows average annual household income there at less than $20,000, or about 40 percent of the statewide average.

In that ZIP code, the mean price of a house in 2009 was $58,000, or about a third of the state average. The mean price for a mobile home was $85,000. So it's an area where trailer houses cost more than house houses.

I am not repeating this to put anybody down. I told you, I'm a liberal. Really. The income disparity and sheer physical dissimilarities between most of southern Dallas and North Dallas make me heartsick. But do we need a horse park for that?

There are still long stretches of road in this general part of town that do not have curbs or gutters. There are no buried storm sewers beneath them. Vast areas of southern Dallas are not served by water mains that are large or new enough to allow significant development.

How about this? Instead of a horse park, how about putting very big water mains, storm and sanitary sewer lines all through the area around the University of North Texas at Dallas campus at East Camp Wisdom and Houston School Road, where a paucity of basic infrastructure is the only thing holding back a development boom?

What would a horse park do? All of a sudden people would have a place to take their horses? This area is a food desert. People need food. I might be more favorably disposed to the horse park if it included some kind of facility where, once they got their horses there, people could eat them.

When the horse park idea first came up many years ago, I knew a lady who was deeply involved. She was a horsey person. Very nice. She had a horse trailer you could live in. Way cool.

She painted a grand picture. The horse park would attract people like her, horsey people, from all over the country. They would come to Dallas to do horse park things together.

Only one time did I ask what things. She said, "dressage." I did not ask any more questions, because there are some things about rich people I do not want to know. What happens in horse parks should stay in horse parks.

This is not to say that nobody in Southern Dallas knows anything about horses. The city south of the river and Interstate 30 includes vast reaches of undeveloped land, some of which has a decidedly rural flavor.

Robert Pitre, a southern Dallas businessman, owns an entire ranch, called Skyline, where for years he has provided riding opportunities for inner-city kids. Skyline Ranch probably is the best known horse-riding venue in southern Dallas, at least among people who live there.

"I've probably put 10,000 kids on horses that have never even been near a horse before," he told me last week.

But no one has ever approached Pitre about the horse park. No one has asked his advice. Pitre, who is involved in land issues in his part of town, stays in pretty close touch with City Hall issues, but he said he knows very little about the horse park.

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44 comments
txnomad
txnomad

It's not like DISD could use the money to hire more teachers and update the schools that are falling apart.

SMITH -- Agent SMith
SMITH -- Agent SMith

A. Horse. Park. How about this...lets build a CASINO?! Why are we sending our money -- rich and poor -- to Oklahoma and Louisiana?!! Is it that TEXAS is so rich that we dont need the casino money? WHY A HORSE PARK?!! Absurd.

Horseboy117
Horseboy117

Ok the person who wrote this article explains everything which wrong with liberals and why there should be an admendment banning them from all office. He wrote an article with absolutely no understanding of what he was writing i know 8th graders who could of figured out what a horsepark is with out even looking it up but jim couldn't even come close. I hope you wrote this article when we built the AAC because this could quite possible become just as profitable. Not mention that there are plans to include Equest a world renowned theraputic riding center which has changed countless lives. While you would much rather have plan parenthood in that area killing babies, but i would much rather have place changing lives not killing them. Also as a member the US team which competed at the world equestrian games which were held at the kentucky horse park, if you do not think this can bring income to dallas you are uneducated as i thought.

Terry M
Terry M

You make an excellent point, dude. Probably not the one you intended to make, but still...

Casandria Snipe
Casandria Snipe

Gotta give something for those kids to do when all the schools shut down. Of course they won't be riding the horses. They'll be shoveling the s***. Business as usual.

Terry M
Terry M

Right! There must be TENTHS of a PERCENTAGE of the population of the Metroplex that are absolutely dying to have a horse park available to them! Spend as much as possible, if not more so! Street repair, schools, and health care are sooo yesterday.

Dallas Diner
Dallas Diner

My guess is that there are more people in the Dallas area who ride, and that more income-producing events would come to the horse park than would come to the white water kayaking facility on the Trinity. There is nothing wrong to putting in facilities that only a certain segment of the population uses. It is no different from a soccer or baseball sports complex or a public golf course.

I think Jim, with whom I usually agree bless his heart, is exhibiting a lack of understanding as to who rides and who participates in horse events--it isn't just rich people. My family was involved in horse showing for a number of years, and I sure didn't grow up rich. It is as much a family event as any other sport, and done by people at all economic levels. And remember, there are many horse related sports, from dressage to rodeo to 4H-sponsored events. I think a horse park could be an economic and cultural plus. As I mentioned in an earlier post, go look at the web page for the GA International Horse Park, it's rings and stands are a venue for a large number of civic events and activities and it has been a viable economic growth engine for about 20 years. My concern on the Dallas proposal is putting that much money into a flood plain. Neither the GA horse park nor the KY horse park, another fantastic facility, are in danger of washing away.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

A couple of points. I think the problem with the "rich equestrian" thing is they do not think of themselves as "rich." This is not an unusual attitude, especially in a city with more than a few billionaires. Ask an accountant making $400k per year if he or she is rich, and the accountant will say no, and tell you to talk to Harold Simmons or Mark Cuban if you want to find a rich person. Most rich people truly believe they are not rich enough to be rich.

Dallas Diner may truly think she is not from a "rich" upbringing, and really believe that average people can enjoy the horse park along with the polo and dressage crowd. After room, board, vets, lessons, saddles, tack, suits and helmets--and of course the horse, which is only the cost of an old used car--you have to be hitting close to $2,000 per month. She may really believe these kinds of entertainment expenditures are common, even for common people.

If one makes a couple to a few hundred thousand per year, he or she can sacrifice some of the other pleasures of life--maybe the opera subscription, or a country club membership, or perhaps this year's planned trip to Paris--in order to scrape up the monthly $2000.

Dallas Diner and her crowd may really believe this horse park will revitalize Dallas and serve its "poor children." She has seen with her own eyes the cars and trailers surrounding parks in Georgia and Kentucky. DD and her charitable friends see themselves as selflessly generous, especially in their aspirations for Dallas. They have raised a million dollars and a web page to augment this dream of a better Dallas, a world class Dallas, with two covered arenas, and parking lots, and dressing rooms, and all of the accoutrements deserving a world class horse park. They are terribly misunderstood by the ignorant few attacking a perfectly good horse park.

Aside from the self delusions of rich people who do not know what rich is, the problem is there are a finite number of horse shows, especially those really fancy ones to which people will travel for long distances, and stay in hotels, and eat in restaurants, These are somewhere else and have been there for a very long time. This will not be easy new business. I remind you a cautionary tale from San Antonio: they built a football stadium so they could get a football team. But they are half way there, they still have the stadium.

And lastly Dallas Diner, please do not compare the gaited this, and dressage that, and jumpers and hunters, to kids playing at baseball and soccer centers. These are very inexpensive games compared with tennis, golf, and horsey play. I suggest you choose your words much more carefully when comparing horse stuff to soccer (the world's most popular game with a nice dash of pretty violent fans) or baseball (the national pastime). A more apt comparison may be with regatta racing or helicopter skiing in Chile.

And what is wrong with the Las Colinas Center, or renting the AMAirCenter,?

Embrace your blessings, worldly and otherwise, and recognize yourself for who you are and what you have. Poor people do not resent rich people; rich people resent richer people.

Dallas Diner
Dallas Diner

Wow, you sure put a lot of words in my mouth that I never said, and then made assumptions about me from your own imaginings! I think the point that I was trying to make that you totally missed is that different people have different sports they are interested in; those sports can be played at a number of price levels; tax dollars are spent on complexes where those sports are played, and those tax dollars come from many pockets, including those of people who have no interest in the sport on which the tax dollars were spent.

I don't know where you grew up, but I grew up in a rural area where lots of kids had backyard horses; horses that cost less than it costs to outfit an average kid in a soccer league. And we didn't have fancy tack, we rode bareback and played "Pony Express."

Apparently in pontificating about my allegedly rich childhood income level, calling me a snob and accusing me of disdain for the poor, you missed the fact that I don't think a Trinity River-located Horse Park is a good idea.

In the meantime, go over to Ft. Worth and tell the wranglers at the stock show and rodeo that people who like and show horses are a bunch of effete tea-sippers.

Terry M
Terry M

I am just as eager to spend millions on whitewater rafting facilities as I am on a horse park and I would like to see some backup for the statement that, "people at all economic levels" participate in horse sports. As far as dressage, 4H, and rodeo events are concerned, last time I looked there was a fairly fancy facility for that sort of thing in Mequite and I haven't seen any stories about Mesquite wallowing in cash thanks to the revenue that brings in. Also see a previous comment about the financial impact of the KY park. The point is, Dallas has MANY more important, community enhancing priorities that it doesn't have/spend money on now. In light of that, directing money to facilities for niche activities is absurd.And on a related topic, NO one in this country "grew up rich", at least, not in thier own opinion. On the other hand, I work with clients every day who have a very different perspective from yours on what constitutes "rich" and what contitutes "poor".

Terry M
Terry M

You keep trying to say that I am somehow disparaging people whose interests I don't share and that is just not the case. I want everyone to have access to every facility that enriches their lives whether it be sports, festivals, kayaking, or yes, even horse parking. (If you ride a horse in a horse "park", where do you "park" a horse?) Unfortunately, we don't currently have the money to do all the things that need doing, so this is not about approving or belittling another's interests, to quote the philosopher, "It's about the money, Lebowski!". Having limited funds, we have to make sure that what we do spend money on has as wide an effect as possible. So while I agree that all of the things you mentioned, and probably more, have some level of community enhancement, priorities have to be set. That's what the discussion really needs to be. What are your priorities? Mine, since you asked, are as biased as the next guy's, but here you go. My first priority is education. I think we need to do everything possible to improve our educational system and that will take money. My opinion on the best way to use that money is to increase the number of classes and the number of teachers to reduce the teacher/student ratio to somewhere around 1:15 for students from 3 to 12 years. During this range of ages, students simply need more individual support from the teacher than it is possible to give at higher ratios. With proper support in this age range, class sizes can be substantially increased (2 to 3 times) in middle and high schools. I have worked in both public and private elementary schools and the primary difference between the two was the class size. The smaller classes made much better progress because I could deal with the needs of the entire class. In a classroom of 30 or more, the kids who need a slower or faster pace end up getting less than what they really need. It's not a good teacher/bad teacher thing it's simple physics. OK, sorry about that tangent I just wandered away on.Anyway, among the other projects I think should take priority over sports and city owned hotels, are fully staffed and well paid fire and police departments, expanded treatment/housing for the homeless, serious work on the levees BEFORE we start spending a lot money on things to put between them or over them, street repair and storm drainage improvements, community parks and swimming pools open everyday for long hours during our extended summer months, increased days and hours and collections for libraries. Stuff like that.Oh and by the way, remember that, "A stranger is just a friend you haven't met yet!"

Dallas Diner
Dallas Diner

Disregarding the fact that we aren't friends, I think lots of projects for sports that I have no interest or little interest in attending or participating in are "community enhancing," such as baseball complexes, soccer complexes, public basketball courts, public golf courses, and parks. I think the annual Ft. Worth Stock Show is a worthwhile annual event. My tax dollars, along with those of a lot of other people who can't afford Mav tickets, helped pay for the AA Arena. All of those are "niche" uses or events. I don't make unwarranted assumptions about the people who use those facilities or disparage them because they like to do something I don't like to do.

Incidentally, i'm curious, what do you consider to be a "community enhancing" project?

Terry M
Terry M

None, my friend. I just thik that rational people should have a concern with putting it ANYWHERE that does not address the many more important priorities we need to put that kind of money into.What part of "community enhancing" vs. "niche" projects are YOU having trouble understanding?

Dallas Diner
Dallas Diner

What part of "My concern on the Dallas proposal is putting that much money into a flood plain," are you having trouble understanding?

Titus Groan
Titus Groan

Not enough money for the horse park? The solution is simple - toll the horse trails.

cynical old bastard
cynical old bastard

That was done in Blazing Saddles. It worked pretty well there.

jfpo
jfpo

We just need a shitload of dimes.

3Horn
3Horn

A trail of horse shit and broken promises?

I think we may finally have something to name after George W. Bush.

Terry M
Terry M

Best. Comment. Ever!

Linda Forward
Linda Forward

This article and some of the comments show a lack of understanding of what a horse park is. It is much more than riding trails. To ridicule and criticize something one knows nothing about makes one look foolish.

To understand what a horse park is/can be, check out the world famous Kentucky Horse Park. It generates huge amounts of money for the local area from all the visitors who come to visit the park from around the world .

http://kyhorsepark.com/

3Horn
3Horn

On second thought, that may not have been your best retort:

http://www.kentucky.com/2012/0...

John Nicholson, executive director of the Horse Park, said the current-year shortfall was caused in part by the opening of an indoor arena in 2009, well before it was booked with revenue-producing events. The arena's utility costs are about $500,000 a year, he said.

In addition, the park has attracted fewer competitors and fewer tourists than expected since the 2008 recession, which has hurt the park's bottom line.

The park has never been entirely self-supporting. It has received General Fund money — typically $2 million to $3 million a year — since its creation in 1978.

When Kentucky received the bid for the World Games, lawmakers agreed to spend $80 million for new roads and facilities, including a $40 million indoor arena that would allow the park to host many more events.

Peeps
Peeps

Wow, you blew her ass up!!!

cynical old bastard
cynical old bastard

Stop twisting the issue like all the other items that people want built around here, like convention center hotels and basketball arenas. No one is objecting to building a horse park. People are objecting to $25 million dollars of tax dollars building a horse park. If you want a horse park, raise the money and build it. And see if they will come. Don't use my tax dollars for your playpen. We are laying off police and fire personnel.

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

And to think that we have a budget shortfall. How to close that gap? Why spend 25-26 Million on this. What sense does that make? None to the tax paying public.

3Horn
3Horn

That's all fine and dandy, but who are we spending $25 million for? Certainly not 99% of the residents of Dallas and the surrounding cities.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

Big effin' deal. They also have a racetrack that attracts a lot of business that somehow doesn't make it to Lone Star Park, or any other race track in Texas. There are many, many, many (keep adding on as many "manys" as you wish) other larger businesses and popular activities than whatever goes on at a horse park. You want some fancy horse arenas with some nice dressing rooms and paved reserved parking, pay for it, build it, or go somewhere else or resign yourself to the activities of your nearest world class country club.

Dmklotz
Dmklotz

A 25 million dollar horse park where riders have to trailer their horses to ride them or breed them, or whatever. Maybe 1 in 1000 Dallasites has a horse and then they probably own a ranch to ride it on. I would say this is one helluva way to spend our tax money. Who is getting the kick backs here? Smells like horseshit to me.

Suzanne Moore
Suzanne Moore

If it's open to the public anyone can go in. As a poor little white kid growing up in Dallas in the 1950s and 1960s, I would have given my soul to have a place like this to visit. They will have their OWN horses at the Park. They might even give riding lessons. YOU don't know.

You don't even know that city people CAN own horses - I did, after I was an adult and working full time. Ever hear of boarding stables? I boarded my horse(s) at White Rock Stables for 15 years. Had to drive over ten miles to see him, but I didn't care. I'd be there still if my husband and I hadn't moved out of state. Some people love horses enough to make sacrifices to even be around them. I sure did. Most horse owners are NOT wealthy. They spend every bit of their disposable income on their horses.

You really should do some serious homework before you make such sarcastic fun about something you know little about. Maybe it's not a good idea, but maybe it is. No one will know unless they take time to find out.

Oh yeah. Like I said, I am not wealthy. I did however take dressage lessons for many years while boarding at White Rock. You don't have to be rich to do any of this stuff.

Terry M
Terry M

Not sure what your definition of "rich" is, but if you have enough to buy and stable a horse in the city after you've paid your rent(mortgage) uitilities, food, transportation, insurance, and other necessary costs, you qualify as "rich" from my perspective. "Most horse owners are NOT wealthy."? Sez you. Personally, I have exactly "no" money to donate to a "horse park" that I will never use (see?) and will that add NOTHING of value to the city for the 99% of the people who live in it.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

Seems like room, board and care is about 650-750 per month at Las Colinas. Then there is the horse itself, the vet, the tack, fancy costumes, helmets. This is not an inexpensive or modest hobby. A check of the Dallas Horse Park site shows that all of the one million raised was pledged in 2010, most of it coming from board members in $100/$50k tranches, with a few local community foundations contributing as well. Oh, and it is a million because the Trinity Foundation gave them a matching grant. Even the rich equestrian socialites can't finance it. There does not seem to be any grassroots support, and no new donations in 2011.

How does such a terribly stupid, obviously bad idea even get to the discussion stage at the City Council, much less find a single vote of support?

EnG
EnG

"How does such a terribly stupid, obviously bad idea even get to the discussion stage at the City Council, much less find a single vote of support?"

Knowing this City Council, is this a rhetorical question?

Suzanne Moore
Suzanne Moore

You are right when you said you don't know from horses.

Tim Covington
Tim Covington

I'm a fiscal conservative. If the rich people want a horse park, let them pay for all of it. I agree that the city's money would be better spent on infrastructure that will attract businesses and people to the area.

Paula Denmon
Paula Denmon

I guess maybe you should have done a bit of research on Horse Parks.. there is a very famous one in Kentucky. I can try to find out for you the financial impact it makes on the area. But I would dare to guess HUGE. Find out how much the facility in Belton, brings in to the economy of their town. Or the one in Athens, closer to home the Will Rogers complex in Ft.Worth, how much do horse shows and competitions and riding clinic and etc (all involved with horses) add to their bottom line ? Check out the one in Alvarado or Glen Rose. As I drive by those Horse Parks (facilities) I see parking lots filled with trucks and trailers, and people inside and all around the area...spending money.. But you are the Journalist..Maybe you should do the research.

cynical old bastard
cynical old bastard

So why are the people who promised to put in $15 million now unwilling to do so? If this project is so profitable put up the money and build it! Don't go to the city looking for a handout. And of the other facilities you mention, how many are built in a flood plain?

Harvey
Harvey

Don't fret, Jim. The Richie Riches built the swanky Dallas National Golf Club next to the poor Arcadia Park neighborhood in west Oak Cliff and I bet you didn't even know it was there. The contrast is stunning....and separated by nice fences. They like southern Dallas only when they can gate the riff raff out of their compounds. The horse park would be ...dare I say it ... public.

Rmp2272
Rmp2272

Given the condition of the "streets" in Dallas, a horse and a network of horse parks might not be a bad idea.

/or, you could just fix the fucking streets.

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

Just another example of the city squandering tax money-especially when we have a budget shortfall AGAIN! I wonder how the city council and staff can show their faces in public when at every turn we have examples of them being so out of touch and show such a disregard to the public and their tax dollars. They should resign!

elsando
elsando

One of my neighbors has a pet pig. There are probably lots of people in the Dallas area who have pet pigs (you can see where this is going) ... Well ... it's just not worth going there.

Dallas Diner
Dallas Diner

The Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers, GA, built for the Atlanta Olympics is, with one exception, a comparable facility and it is profitable. The exception is that it isn't built between the levees of a river's primary floodplain.

Replay
Replay

What? Only a measly $25 Million? There ain't no respectable "world class city" anywhere on earth that would only invest $25 Million in THEIR horse park. Who owns all of the land where they want to put this horse park? FOLLOW THE MONEY!!!!!!!!!!

Justsayin
Justsayin

They couldnt get "flow control" done in the south, so bring on the horse manure. One way, or another, we are going to increase the "shitty" smell of South Dallas!!!

Perry Moore
Perry Moore

Try thinking of that $26 million as "stimulus money."

 
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