DEL MAR — The Del Mar Horsepark moved a step closer to resuming activities after being closed for equestrian uses since December but advocates continue to urge the governing board to work quickly.
The 22nd District Agricultural Association voted unanimously to start a request for proposals process for a lessee for Horsepark to cover the costs needed to reopen the facility.
The Horsepark has been shut down due to water quality concerns from the Regional Water Quality Control Board the 22nd DAA says will require investments of $3-4 million for the necessary improvements.
The 22nd DAA, which controls both the Del Mar Fairgrounds and Horsepark, created an ad-hoc committee in January and eventually came to three possible scenarios for reopening the equestrian facility.
The first was to retain full control of the property. But with the board’s current financial hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was not feasible.
“If we were sitting on those funds, this probably has the potential to be the fastest way to resuming equestrian activities,” Fairgrounds CEO Carlene Moore said. “Unfortunately we don’t have those funds at this time.”
The fair board says more investments are required to fully reopen the Horsepark again.
Also considered was a public-private partnership, with the fair board holding on to the possibility of retaining full control over the property. However, as timing is an important factor, the board opted instead for the lessee option.
“Some of the pros of that are the transfer of risk to a third-party,” Moore said. “The lessee would be responsible not only for the water quality improvements but other capital improvements that are necessary for their operation and to the facility.”
According to Moore, one of the main reasons the Fairgrounds purchased the Horsepark property back in 1993 was to expand parking during the county fair.
“And so through the RFP (request for proposal) process we would structure it in such a way that the property would still be available to us for that,” Moore said.
Horsepark advocates welcomed the decision to find a lessee but continue to urge the 22nd DAA to work as quickly as possible.
“I think that there are a lot of things to consider here with the RFP, the most important being time,” said Carla Echols-Hayes, co-founder of the advocacy group Friends of Del Mar Horsepark. “Most show organizers need three-four months before they book a show in order to get national recognition for their shows which is what attracts participants.”
The 22nd DAA will return for its July meetings with further updates on the RFP process.
In a press release, the Friends of Del Mar Horsepark said they will continue to be strong advocates for a speedy and thorough process to get Horsepark back up and running for equestrian activities.
“Horsepark’s supporters and neighbors will actively participate in the upcoming July 13 board meeting of the 22nd DAA to encourage a speedy RFP issuance and selection process,” the group said in the release.