Save Our Land & Bakas Equestrian Center - Hillsborough County

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Hillsborough County taxpayers are at risk of losing 22 acres of publicly-owned lands including the Bakas Equestrian Center's Horses for Handicapped nonprofit program.

We should not sell our public conservation land, we should be acquiring more.

We must protect this public property, which connects to thousands of acres of land and trails. 

We must make sure the cost of relocating the Bakas Equestrian Center and building an additional facility is properly determined and actually worth it.

Please sign this petition now so Hillsborough County does NOT sell public lands paid for by taxpayers to private interests and the Bakas Equestrian Center will not need to relocate.


Want to help? Here's how: 

  1. Sign this petition and share it with friends on social media and by word of mouth. 
  2. "Like" our Facebook page now to keep up to date on important events, news, and additional information.
  3. Email the Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners now to explain you signed this petition and any additional reasons why we should NOT sell our public lands to private interests or risk losing the Bakas Equestrian Center!
  4. Join us at the informational session hosted by Hillsborough County Administration at the Keystone Recreation Center on Monday, May 15th at 6:30 p.m. in support of saving our public lands and the Bakas Equestrian Center!
  5. Join us and make public comment at the next Hillsborough County Commissioners meeting on Wednesday morning, May 17th. We must save our public lands and the Bakas Equestrian Center!

Thank you for your support of our community.

Want to learn more?

  • From the Tampa Bay Times:  In exchange for paying for construction, Pepin would get ownership of the tract in northwest Hillsborough County currently used by Bakas. It abuts the 67-acre parcel where he and his family live in a $1.5 million home. How much Pepin would pay toward building new stables, offices and barns would depend on an independent appraisal of the Bakas site. He has agreed to pay the appraised value plus $50,000. The land has a market value of $827,000, according to property appraiser records.

    "I have always been a major philanthropic citizen and have helped hundreds of causes in this community," Pepin said in an email. "I am working hard to satisfy the most people and get the most out of taxpayers' money."

    Pepin originally offered to pay $430,000 for a privately owned, 18-acre parcel in Seffner and said he would pay up to $450,000 for the construction of facilities there to replace the Bakas site. But his proposal to relocate the center 31 miles away in Seffner led to an outcry from families whose mentally and physically disabled children ride horses at the center. Although located in far northwest Hillsborough, Bakas also draws families from Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties. The Odessa and Dover tracts now proposed are already owned by the county, eliminating the need to buy land for the new centers.

    Kim Hajaistron, whose disabled son, Michael, is a rider at Bakas, said the new deal is better than moving to Seffner. But she remains skeptical that the money Pepin is offering will cover the cost of facilities to match the covered arena, a 13-stall stable and administrative center at Bakas. "His original proposal was laughable at how cheap he wanted to get us for," she said. "I need to see numbers, and we need to go into this very carefully."

    Hillsborough County officials will this week begin evaluating the new deal, which will likely go for approval before commissioners within the next two months. They plan to get feedback from Bakas parents and obtain estimates for stable construction, said Forest Turbiville, director of the Conservation and Environmental Lands Management Department.

    Located on S Mobley Road, Northwest Equestrian Park is about 600 acres and has 6 miles of horse trails.Sydney Dover Trails comprises about 800 acres but roughly two-thirds of that is old phosphate pits and mining areas. Roughly 250 acres are suitable for riding, Turbiville said.

    Both parks are viable sites but the county also has to consider the cost of running two centers, he added. Bakas costs about $580,000 a year to run. "The one thing we don't want to do is reduce service to the existing Bakas facility," Turbiville said.

 



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