The Fairfax County Ad Hoc Equestrian Task Force (ETF) proposed hiring an equestrian coordinator and establishing an Equestrian Advisory Committee when it presented its recommendations to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, following a year of meetings.
The task force proposed that officials appoint an equestrian coordinator to act as an ambassador between equestrians and the county. "The equestrian coordinator is really the lynchpin that we felt would help to achieve our goals," said Breeana Bornhorst, chair of the Equestrian Task Force.
She and the task force also recommended that the county establish an Equestrian Advisory Committee to assist the coordinator, as well as review existing county zoning laws and permitting processes to identify problems that impede commercial and private equestrian activities, development and expansion.
Finally, Bornhorst suggested building a website under Park Authority auspices to serve as a central information resource for the equestrian community and those who wish to board, ride, train, or partake of therapeutic riding experiences.
The Board of Supervisors passed a motion to accept the report, referring the task force's recommendations to county staff for further analysis. Bulova noted that the suggested equestrian coordinator position could be a newly formed position, or an existing member of a department such as the Fairfax County Park Authority.
Providence District Supervisor Linda Smyth wanted to know if the task force had had an opportunity to identify any private sector players who would be interested in partnering with the county to fund equestrian trails and other programs.
"Money’s always the bottom line with everything," she said. "Ultimately you want to get something done. It takes more than people talking about it."
Bornhorst said that the task force had not had room within its timeline to identify those partners, but agreed with Smyth that it could be a project for the proposed advisory committee.
Springfield District Supervisor Pat Herrity thanked the task force for its report, but said that he had hoped to see more of an emphasis on preserving and maintaining the county's existing equestrian complexes.
"Many of our new zoning laws and code requirements have at times not included a look at the impact on the boarding and riding stables," said Herrity. "I want to make sure we don't take any steps backwards."
Hunter Mill District Supervisor Catherine Hudgins said that Frying Pan Farm Park was a good example of the county's ability to preserve and maintain such a site without losing it to development. "What we've done with Frying Pan has made a large statement about how to preserve what the county has been," she said.
The task force hopes these steps will help the county’s equestrian culture thrive and combat a trend that has seen at least 50 equine-related businesses close in the last 20 years.
The equestrian industry brought $26.3 million to Fairfax County, Fairfax City and Falls Church in 2010, according to The Economic Impact of the Horse Industry in Virginia Study. But opportunities continue to decline, primarily due to increased land development and a lack of planning to preserve equestrian facilities. For example, both Woodlawn Stables and The Stables at Meadowood are currently fighting to survive.
The eight-member task force based their report on research and discussions held over a year of monthly meetings, which began in March 2011 at the direction of the Board of Supervisors. The group also conducted a long and a short survey and held an open forum to solicit input.
According to the ETF report, survey respondents were most interested in:
- A county web site for equestrian trail information, access to, quality of and safety on trails.
- Public access to affordable riding lessons.
- Availability of horse boarding facilities within Fairfax County.
The eight task force members are:
- Breeana G. Bornhorst, ETF chair and executive director of Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding Program
- Bryant Dunetz, ETF vice chair and Fairfax4Horses Board Member
- Jan Hedetniemi, Fairfax4Horses Board Member
- Brian Purdy, Mason Neck Horse Coalition Board Member
- Robin Rentsch, Great Falls Horse Network
- Rachel Rifkind, former Public Member, Virginia Horse Center
- Matthew Stough, George Mason University Equestrian Team
- Jean Voss, Clifton Horse Society
The complete Equestrian Task Force Report to the Board of Supervisors is attached to this article as a .pdf.
For more information on equestrian activities in Fairfax County, refer to these recent Patch articles: