Council endorses equestrian park plans, avoids funding environmental report
ESCONDIDO — Residents and the City Council praised the completed master plan for a $10 million new equestrian park adjacent to Daley Ranch.
But council declined to provide direction for staff regarding the preparation of the Environmental Impact Report, leaving progress for the park in the hands of community volunteers.
Located off of Valley Center Road, the undeveloped site for the proposed park has been used for decades by the Asociacion de Charros de Escondido to host Mexican-style rodeos and choreographed horse shows.
In 2011, the city put forth plans to park utility trucks for the nearby water treatment plant on the site. Community groups and local homeowners fiercely opposed the project.
The city eventually decided to allow plans for an equestrian park to move forward instead, and designated $50,000 in 2013 for the development of a draft master plan.
The draft master plan, completed by Wynn-Smith Landscape Architecture, Inc., incorporates multiple arenas for rodeos as well as Western and English riding events. The design also includes a community hall that can be rented for special events, picnic areas, animal pens, and a therapeutic riding ring.
Tim Smith of Wynn-Smith Landscape Architecture, Inc. said the designs were developed with a rustic, hacienda ranch feeling in mind.
The plan proposed building the park in stages as funds are gradually raised.
“We needed to make it possible for funding to happen early on so people would not be discouraged about having to come up with the entire $10 million,” Smith explained.
After being supported by the city’s community services commission and the planning commission, the draft plan came before council on Wednesday.
Council was asked to endorse the draft, but not accept the master plan because funds have not been allocated to build the park.
The development of an EIR was determined to be the next step for the advancement of the park.
City staff explained that city staff could complete the EIR for about $10,000 or an outside company could compose the report for about $20,000 to $40,000. An outside company would be able to complete the report faster since city staff is already working on several other projects.
Several residents spoke in favor of the proposed designs at the meeting and encouraged the city to help set aside funds for the park’s EIR and construction.
“The plan that you saw tonight far exceeds what most of us had envisioned three years ago,” said Steve Berrol. He is the president of the nonprofit El Caballo Park Conservancy, which was created to save and now fundraise for the park.
“I’m 100 percent behind this. I think it’s a fantastic plan,” said Councilmember Ed Gallo. He encouraged the community to raise funds soon so progress could be made quickly.
Deputy Mayor Olga Diaz and Councilmember John Masson expressed support for the park and encouraged the city to provide the funds for an EIR.
“I would imagine we could identify some funds if we worked on it. Certainly $40,000 is a lot of money, but it’s not impossible,” said Diaz.
While giving support for the park, Mayor Sam Abed said that the city needs to be cautious about spending money on the project. He said that the city is still working to fund improvements of existing parks, like Grape Day Park.
“I think it’s going to be great for the community, however I have more realistic expectations,” he said.
A decision about funding for the EIR was dropped as council voted on the master plan.
After discussion, Abed requested a motion to endorse the park’s master plan, which was quickly made and seconded by other council members.
Diaz then interrupted to ask about the Council’s direction on funding for the EIR, saying that without it, the plans for the park would end up in a closet somewhere.
The agenda item stated, “Request Council accept the conceptual El Caballo Park Master Plan and provide staff direction regarding preparation of an environmental review required prior to formally adopting the Master Plan.”
But Abed stated that council “was not in a in a position today to move forward on an EIR.” He decided that the vote on the master plan for the park should continue without mention of the EIR.
Council unanimously voted to endorse El Caballo Park’s master plan, leaving the next steps for funding for the EIR and eventual construction of the park to the community.