Pony Up for a Horse Park

$12 million for horsies? Well, if you insist.

And I need to be careful about this part. I heard spokespersons for the nonprofits speak at last week's council briefing; I chatted with some of them by phone later; and I kind of checked them out. I think these really are good people who do good works. They take disabled kids and kids sent to them by the courts and try to give them a stronger, brighter view of life using horses and trail riding as therapy. I don't believe there's a bad word to be said about any of them.

But, look: They came to this briefing without any financials. No pro forma. They have some history, and they operate existing facilities in the suburbs, but they didn't even bring documentation to show how many clients they serve. Their best estimate was "thousands." When some of the council members drilled down, the "thousands" seemed to refer to people who attended a recent pumpkin sale.

Again, these are very nice people with the best of intentions. But we are talking about turning over hundreds of acres of valuable forest land to them, not to mention a $12 million capital investment, locked in with 30-year leases. This is just not the kind of deal that ever happens in the real world.

The beanie people are gone. Mayor Mike Rawlings said in the meeting he had gone to "a lot of wealthy people" about their interest in the park, but he couldn't name any who were remotely interested in kicking in money any time soon. Rawlings said, "The big question I was asked was, 'Are you guys going to get serious about it?'"

You want a horse park? Build it. Don't bother us. That's what that means.

These are just rich people who don't want to pay for a horse park, unlike you and me, Big Spender. We've said we want it twice. I frankly do not recall. Maybe I wanted two horse parks. I'm trying to remember what else was going on in my life at that time.

I know that you know that these things do not happen in a vacuum. Two-thirds of the city's municipal swimming pools are closed because of budget constraints. The overall parks budget has fallen by 50 percent in the last five years.

Last week a concerned member of the Park Board, Lee M. Kleinman, did something people in positions of power and persuasion rarely do in Dallas: Acting on what was clearly an impulse of conscience, he risked ostracism by sending a letter to the City Council begging them not to do this.

"Please deny the City's attempt to proceed with the development of the Texas Horse Park on this week's agenda," he wrote. "This facility has little or no support in our community as demonstrated by an inability to raise private matching funds. In an era where many quality of life projects have exceeded their matching fund commitment, virtually no money has been raised for this project."

Kleinman pointed out, "This project serves a very small section of our community. The briefing targets 150 children at a cost of over $80,000 per user." He said the same money could be used to build two to three aquatic centers where thousands of kids could be taught to swim.

I spoke to Dallas naturalist Tim Dalbey last week, who said the site designated for the horse park is an invaluable archeological resource that will be ruined by the park.

What does this remind me of? It reminds me of Winfrey Point, where city staff wanted to sacrifice an expanse of beautiful lakeside prairie in order to collect parking fees. It reminds me of pressure the city staff put on a rowing club at White Rock Lake recently to turn its boathouse into a nightclub so the city could collect rent.

But mostly it reminds me of the "white-water feature," a fake kayaking rapids in the Trinity River designed by city staff that has permanently ruined the most valuable stretch of the river for paddling recreation.

Especially where parks are concerned, the city staff has consistently proved itself in recent years to be the source of horrible ideas, snafus and costly catastrophes. This is another one. Call your councilperson. Try sobbing.

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3 comments
MisterMean
MisterMean

Again the city shows that it just can not spend the tax payer's money without squandering it.  After all there is so much more where that came from.  What a bunch of crap from the city council and staff.

BenS.
BenS.

Spread across a topographic high at the site is a real cool escarpment used by Native Americans. Here they fashioned all kinds of tools, hunted and camped. It's all still there. An archeological survey was done there just recently and found evidence of much more. There is a much deeper story to all this regarding poor land stewardship of city hall, a very poorly maintained black market slaughterhouse and I'm afraid to say a city government that failed to protect citizens of Pleasant Grove from a health hazard. The city should really be ashamed of itself that they allowed this to happen for so long. They knew about it. It infuriates me. It put the health of those around there at risk. It polluted the watershed. They blame the tenant but I think the city needs to share in that blame. Shame on them. The whole lot.

 

I like the idea of a Horse Park but really dislike the plans. The original plans were near the intersection of Elam and Pemberton Hill Road. The new design is at 811 Pemberton Hill, the old Wallace Jenkins mega-farm that once dominated both sides of the river. This location sits too close to a very sensitive archeological wonder of a place. The current renderings would have a negative impact there that would be permanent. To build a parking lot in the same pasture as the old White Rock Spring is irresponsible and down right criminal. The runoff from the parking area would end up in the spring. With so much available land to chose from why here? It just mystifies me.

 

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

I think Sherman T. Potter would've said, "Horse hockey!"

 
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