Is the 22nd DAA Being Truthful About Horsepark?

By Phil Trubey

January 9, 2021

Update: I forgot to include a link to the petition to Save Del Mar Horsepark: Click here to sign petition.

My recent article about the 22nd DAA shutting down Horsepark struck a chord. It has been by far the most widely read article on the RSF Post. Which makes sense since Rancho Santa Fe is, among other things, an equestrian community. People buy houses in RSF to stable horses. They use the dozens of nearby boarding facilities and our very extensive riding trails. And they compete at local shows, of which the best facility is Horsepark, the venue the 22nd DAA has shut down. Get rid of Horsepark and you’re starting down the inevitable decline of Rancho Santa Fe as an equestrian community.

The reason given by the 22nd DAA for the shutdown is water quality issues due to rain storm runoff from Horsepark.

But two items came to our attention which makes us wonder if the 22nd DAA is being truthful and/or if they have any idea what they are talking about.

First, the Coast News recently talked to the relevant state agency, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board. In their article, the agency is quoted as saying with regard to not yet fully complying with facility updates:

“If [the Fairgrounds] does not move forward with the proposed improvements [originally scheduled for 2021], then the likely path would be for them to submit a new [application] …, and at that time that application would be reviewed to ensure compliance,”

This does not sound like an agency that has given the 22nd DAA an order to shut down. Indeed it sounds like they are aware of operational challenges and are giving organizations time to get their ducks in a row.

Second, a local group, the Friends of Del Mar Horsepark, hired an investigator to make water runoff measurements during the last rainfall December 28th. He found that runoff water quality from Horsepark was decent, and had about thirty times lower bacteria count than Via de la Valle storm water runoff, and also 25x lower bacteria count from water flowing from the east. Read the full results in the recent Friends of Del Mar Horsepark Press Release.

So it appears that storm water pollution concerns are overblown. Horsepark is already well run when it comes to sanitation practices. 

The next meeting of the 22nd DAA will be this Tuesday January 12th at 1:30 pm. Click here to view, or to register to provide public comments during the public comment period.

Ali Nilforushan’s Vision

As I mentioned in my previous article, two respected horse show organizers put forth proposals to continue to run Horsepark profitably. I spent some time with one of them, Ali Nilforushan, and here are his thoughts.

Ali came to the US from Iran when he was 7 and is a past equestrian World Cup and Olympian athlete. Ali thinks the 22nd DAA would like to see Horsepark be used for more than just a horse facility. With that in mind, his proposal would leave the show and boarding facilities largely intact but add other community friendly facilities.

As a show organizer himself, Ali keenly understands that exposing the sport to the wider community is very important. One way to get new participants into the sport is to have a venue that showcases the sport. So Ali would like to use part of Horsepark land to build facilities that would bring other community members into Horsepark.

Already, Horsepark abuts the large San Dieguito River conservancy area. Connect the two facilities. Add in a dog park. A kid’s playground. A restaurant. An ice cream shop. Maybe even a multi purpose community center. The point is to make Horsepark a hub not only for equestrian activities but also for the wider community population. 

Is there room to do all this and maintain equestrian activities? I believe there is. Right now, there are five rings (plus one more shared with show operations) dedicated for horse boarders, which is a ridiculously large number for 70 boarders. Rationalizing the boarder part of the operation, and reducing the size of horse shows would give you enough room to implement other community uses.

In practice, the only way I think this could be pulled off would be if the 22nd DAA gave an operator like Ali a ground lease to run the whole operation. The apparent reason why the 22nd DAA bought Horsepark in the first place was to act as overflow parking for the Fair every year, so their imagination is lacking a bit in this area. 

Will something like this materialize? Will the 22nd DAA simply sell Horsepark to a condo developer? Tune in January 12th and find out.

Update: I forgot to include a link to the petition to Save Del Mar Horsepark: Click here to sign petition.

Five rings on the west (left) are all dedicated for 70 boarders. This makes no sense.

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