Preserve Riverbend Equestrian Center
Preserve Riverbend Equestrian Center
URGENT!!!! Those of you that know me know I ask very little very seldom!
Today I received news that Greenville County is going to close Riverbend Equestrian Center and make it a bike park!
UNACCEPTABLE!!!! We as horse people and equestrians already fight for places to ride and board our horses! Not to mention the jobs associated with...
This action will cause 15 boarders huge upheaval, stressing already stretched local resources and farms, as well as closing what for years has been the center for Greenville Foothills Pony Club! This organization has been instrumental in launching stellar riders, equestrians and more importantly has provided that good clean and wholesome environment we as parents strive so hard to provide our children with!!!
Call out the political, money mongering local folks at Greenville County who haven't a clue what they are destroying!!
Janna Bankston Ritacco, director of the center and manager needs our help to save this beautiful facility and home to our beloved horses and clubs!!!
I am opening this as a petition for signatures and ideas!!!
Greenville Foothills Pony Club
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Media contacts:
Sandra Larson: firstname.lastname@example.org,
Janna Ritacco: (864) 238-1214
LOCAL EQUESTRIANS URGE COUNTY NOT TO SHUTTER PUBLIC RIDING FACILITY
Greenville Foothills Pony Club Reacts to Plans for Riverbend Equestrian Park
GREENVILLE, SC (March 1, 2019)—Local equestrians are urging county leaders to reconsider plans to repurpose Riverbend Equestrian Park, which is the only public facility for horseback riding in Greenville County.
For several years, the Greenville Foothills Pony Club (GFPC) has used the park in the northern part of the county near Travelers Rest as its home base, hosting monthly meetings as well as several public riding shows and clinics each year. The nonprofit group is a chapter of the United States Pony Club, which is one of the world’s largest junior equestrian organizations.
GFPC District Commissioner Sandra Larson said she received word February 27 that the county has decided to quit using Riverbend as an equestrian park.
“We’ve been given notice that we can use it for Pony Club activities through June 30,” Larson said. “They were very vague about future plans, other than saying that they were going to have a plan for public comment and input.”
The decision would also affect some 30 students who take riding lessons from Janna Ritacco, a GFPC alumna who has a contract with the county to oversee the facility. Ritacco manages boarders and the barn, and she pays a monthly fee of $1,350 for the privilege of teaching lessons at Riverbend.
She said the county gave her no warning before informing her of its decision to not renew her contract, which expires in June. Unless the county reconsiders, she will have to move her three horses that live at Riverbend, and 12 boarder horses will have to move as well.
Ritacco, who is also the regional instructional coordinator for Carolina Region Pony Clubs, said that she can always find another place to teach but that Riverbend’s designation as a public equestrian facility must be preserved.
“We can’t lose this facility,” she said. “It is such a gem and an asset to the community. To scrap that infrastructure would be asinine.”
The park, which is part of Greenville County Rec, boasts a barn with 13 stalls, a show barn with 70 stalls, three arenas, and riding trails. Ritacco said any horse owner is able to bring horses to the park to ride on the trails, and that use of the arenas only requires payment of a $5 ring fee. She said the show barn has also been used to shelter horses and other animals evacuated during hurricanes.
For those who don’t have large plots of land available to them, that resource is priceless, said Ritacco, and the park also provides an affordable place for county residents to board their horses.
“All of the farms I grew up riding at in Greenville County are neighborhoods now,” said Ritacco, who also noted the importance of Riverbend as a home for GFPC. “I’ve done Pony Club nationally and internationally, and Greenville Foothills is one of the strongest clubs because it has a home base.”
Larson echoed Ritacco’s sentiments, noting that many private land owners no longer allow people to ride horses on their property because they are worried about liability.
“Our main push is that Riverbend should be kept as a public riding facility,” Larson said. “I’m fine with sharing the park and understand that it can’t be strictly equestrian. But the county’s tone is that this small group of equestrians is using it and that no one else can, and that’s not the case.”
Larson noted that the park already has multiple uses, as it boasts a shelter that is available for picnics and gatherings. She said many people bring their children to walk and ride bikes and visit with the horses that call Riverbend home. If the county would better publicize the facility, that kind of casual traffic would only increase, Larson said. She added that people have told her that when they try to contact the county about renting Riverbend for events, they get no response.
With improved marketing of Riverbend and its many uses, Larson envisions that the park could bring in more profit and thereby become more manageable for the county, which is responsible for its general maintenance, while also providing an affordable public venue for equestrian use.
Larson urges Greenville County riders to contact their council representatives to express their desire for Riverbend to remain a destination for equestrians across the Upstate. She also hopes to organize a group of riding enthusiasts to attend the next County Council meeting and encourages county leaders to let the equestrian community help preserve Riverbend through efforts such as writing grants and fundraising. GFPC members already help with its maintenance by painting show-jumping rails, power-washing equipment, painting arena fences, clearing trails, and mulching beds, Larson said.
The park, according to the Greenville County Rec website, is also open to mountain bikers and has a walking trail. It is located at 175 Riverbend Road in Greenville. The website lists only a county contact who oversees rental of the park for events. No information for Ritacco is listed on the site. Ritacco said when the park came under control of the county, she was told she must delete the Facebook page she had created for it because she is not a county employee.
Larson said the park was created in 1990 when Greenville Rec received Federal Land and Water Conservation funding to purchase property to build an equestrian facility. She said that when Greenville Rec was absorbed by the county, county officials planned to shut it down but reconsidered due to public pressure.
She has assured GFPC members that the club will persevere regardless of the future of Riverbend Equestrian Park, but without it they would have to meet at privately owned farms.
Ritacco noted that many private farms lack the infrastructure for a horse show or even a GFPC meeting.