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Del Mar Horsepark
The 22nd DAA's ad hoc committee will review several possible scenarios to reopen the Del Mar Horsepark. Photo courtesy of Del Mar Fairgrounds
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22nd DAA to explore future options for Del Mar Horsepark

DEL MAR — The local equestrian community may be getting closer to answers regarding the future of Del Mar Horsepark after the 22nd District Agricultural Association announced its intent to present further plans for reopening after it was shut down in December 2020.

The fair board has added a meeting to their schedule for June 8 and it is expected that a recommendation for Horsepark will be on the meeting’s agenda on the Friday prior to the meeting.

“We’ll have the report going out on the Friday before and I would anticipate, I don’t mean to speak for the committee, but I would anticipate that a recommendation would be in that written document,” Del Mar Fairgrounds CEO Carlene Moore said. “That is the goal.”

The issues in relation to Horsepark began in 2015 when the California State Water Resources Control Board adopted new permit requirements that included equestrian facilities greater than 499 horses.

In September 2019, the fair board submitted a notice to the Regional Water Quality Control Board to enroll in a waiver which included the fair board’s intent to stop horse shows of more than 499 in an effort to not be classified as a large operation. The costs for this waiver were estimated at $3 million.

After similar operations in Orange County were told by the regional board they must show they were not discharging pollutants into the water supply, the fair board decided to pause all equestrian operations at Horsepark in December 2020 and canceled all horse shows for 2021.

To become compliant, the 22nd DAA must both confirm all improvements for the waiver it enrolled in 2019 are completed and also enroll in the regional water control board’s Industrial General Permit which requires monthly and annual reports — all of which is estimated to be costly in terms of required improvements.

“That’s estimated to be about a $3-4 million project just in terms of the capital improvements that need to be made at Horsepark,” Moore said.

There are three possible scenarios for getting Horsepark back open for equestrian operations: the 22nd DAA continues Horsepark operations as it has since 1996 with capital investments coming from fair board operations; a public-private partnership where the fair board continues active involvement in operations with an agreement with a private partner to invest in and operate Horsepark; or a Request for Proposals process where operators will bid for the opportunity to operate Horsepark.

The ad-hoc committee formed by the fair board to work on issues regarding Horsepark will work for the next month prior to the June 8 meeting to form a recommendation based on possible scenarios.

“In essence, the committee will be presenting a recommendation for the board’s discussion and we would anticipate the board being able to make a decision at that meeting in terms of what those next steps are,” Moore said.

Carla Echols-Hayes, a Solana Beach resident and the strongest advocate for Horsepark since its closure, started a GoFundMe to “support finding a cost-effective solution to get horses back to Horsepark” and has raised $6,400 to date. Echols-Hayes spoke at the board meeting expressing optimism that there appears to be some movement happening.

“It sounds like we’ll have to wait a little bit on Horsepark and I understand there is a process that needs to be followed,” Echols-Hayes said. “I’m really happy at the progress that’s been made so far because these things can take a great deal of time.”