FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contacts: Beverly Dickerson (703) 620-4689
Alix Shutello (703) 217-7904
Vienna, VA, June 23, 2008 – Fairfax4Horses, a local non-profit organization, is pleased to announce that the Fairfax County Park Authority has approved funding for the construction of a riding ring and parking lot at Laurel Hill Park in Lorton. . The improvements will be paid for with funding from the 2004 Park Authority Bond Construction Fund and proffers offered by developers in the Lorton area. Fairfax4Horses, whose mission is to bring horseback riding back to Fairfax County, has been working closely with the Park Authority to plan an equestrian center at Laurel Hill Park.
“We would like to thank the Park Authority Board, particularly Gil McCutcheon of the Mt. Vernon District, for supporting use of the proffered funds for this project,” said Beverly Dickerson, president of Fairfax4Horses. “This is a great beginning and we look forward to seeing equestrian activity into Laurel Hill Park in a variety of ways.” This work is the first phase in developing a facility which is designed to include stables and indoor arena. The approved work includes demolition of some existing non-historic structures in the prior dairy farm area of the prison site. The demolition of these structures, along with construction of some of the adjacent trail areas is anticipated to begin by this fall.
The number of riding stables in Fairfax County has decreased dramatically as residential and commercial development has consumed remaining open space in the area. “The closure of two facilities in the county a few years ago eliminated over 1,000 weekly lesson hours previously available to riders in the area,” continued Dickerson. “Although the lesson programs will have to be deferred until the stable is constructed, the new ring can be the site of events that will be enjoyed by riders and onlookers alike.”
During its public planning process, the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA) drafted a conceptual development plan approved in 2004 for the park at Laurel Hill. The plan identifies Land Bay “K” as an Equestrian Center. Some additional complementary uses are identified for this area as well, such as trail development. The park has already developed a golf course, and other recreational and educational offerings are anticipated. “Bringing riding back into Fairfax County will augment the existing recreational options in the county, adds Dickerson, “and provide an activity that is no longer readily available to county residents.”
In addition to benefiting participants, bringing equestrian activities back into the county also will support the local economy. A recent study found that horse industry brings approximately $196.2 million into the economy of nearby Montgomery County in Maryland. The Potomac Horse Center in Montgomery County, receives about $1 million per year in lesson fees. Once the Laurel Hill Equestrian Center is complete, income from boarding, summer camp, and other activities is expected to more than offset annual expenses.
Two popular existing equestrian facilities in Fairfax County, Turner Farm and Frying Pan Park, serve those who already own their own horses. Though these facilities play an important role in promoting and protecting the equestrian life style in Fairfax County, they do not offer riding lessons to the general public, nor do they offer any boarding services.
Later phases of the equestrian center include facilities for riding lessons and boarding. The facility could also provide a site for a therapeutic riding program and a number of other activities that would benefit youth. Summer camps, after-school programs, and programs for at-risk youth are among the activities the facility could offer to residents. Development of barns and an indoor arena will rely on private donations and other fundraising events for their completion.
Fairfax4Horses, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization working to ensure that all Fairfax County residents have access to affordable public riding lessons at county park facilities within a reasonable distance of where they live. We are currently focusing on raising funds to build a barn and indoor arena at Laurel Hill Park in Lorton. For more information on Fairfax4Horses, visit www.fairfax4horses.org.