Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008

Beallsville equestrian park adds 27 acres

Larger riding facilities not yet at the gate

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County planners have approved the purchase of 27 acres of land adjacent to Woodstock Equestrian Park, but plans to construct larger riding facilities at the Beallsville property are still years away.

The Planning Board approved $500,000 for the property on West Hunter Road at its Dec. 6 meeting, bringing the park’s size to 872 acres. The acquisition was recommended in the park’s 2002 master plan, said Bill Gries, a county land acquisition specialist. The plan does not recommend purchasing any other specific parcels, he said, though the county will consider opportunities as they arise.

The parcel is located on the west side of Route 28 near the site where an indoor riding arena is planned, Gries said.

‘‘It will give us an opportunity to buffer this area from neighbors to the south and add some paddock space,” he said. ‘‘This fits in very well.”

The purchase, which still needs to be finalized, could be used as part of a cross-country course, said David Tobin, equine resources manager for the park.

‘‘It’s a project that means a lot to me and, I know, a lot of other people,” he said of the park. ‘‘It’s been slow in developing, but I think there’s a more organized focus on it now than there has been.”

Woodstock Equestrian Park, which is bisected by Route 28, is being developed as a public-private partnership by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and the nonprofit Woodstock Equestrian Park Foundation. The park currently boasts equestrian bridges, jumps and 15 miles of riding and hiking trails, and the master plan calls for competition rings, a polo field, and indoor riding arena and an eventing course for dressage, show-jumping and cross country. The facility is expected to draw 50,000 people a year when completed, park representatives have said. Park officials do not currently keep data on how many people visit Woodstock each year, Tobin said.

Plans are progressing, but the pace is slow, foundation President Lydia McClain said.

‘‘It’s not easy in the county right now,” she said. ‘‘... I think the parks department is pretty stretched.”

A facility plan outlining the park’s future in more specific terms than the conceptual master plan is currently in the works, Tobin said. The park will likely cost between $4 million and $6 million when completed, representatives have said.

Park planners said they hope to soon begin looking for someone to design the next phase of the facility, which will include an outdoor ring, expanded parking and infrastructure such as wells and septic, according to Linda Komes, project manager for the park. Construction could begin in a year, she said.