End of the Old West?
Vail CO, Colorado
EDWARDS ” Pony-tailed little girls who dream of having a horse of their own to ride will soon have to travel further to make their dreams come true.
Since opening in the early 1970s, the Berry Creek Equestrian Center has remained largely unchanged while homes, shopping centers and schools have continued to pop-up around it over the years.
Now the center is preparing to close its doors and relocate the horses that are boarded there to make way for a high school.
“It’s heartbreaking for so many reasons,” Laurie Jueneman, who runs her riding lesson business out of Berry Creek, said. “It’s the end of something really special, and I just don’t think that when people voted for the school bond they knew that a piece of the valley’s history would disappear.”
Eagle County voters approved a tax increase in November that allowed the school district to build a new high school where the center is currently located to replace Battle Mountain High School.
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“Obviously growth is what’s important to the community right now,” Kathy Albers, who managed the center in 2000, said. “Kids are being born left and right, and the need for schools is real, but what are those kids going to do for fun? Where else can they learn about responsibility the way they do when they have to care for a horse?”
The closing and demolition of the center, which is scheduled for June, is the perfect example of what is becoming a real problem in Colorado, Albers said.
“It’s kind of like the old West is disappearing,” Albers said. “Colorado doesn’t even feel like Colorado anymore; it’s becoming more like California. It used to be you could just ride your horse anywhere.”
The horses that are boarded at the center, including Jueneman’s 18 horses, will be relocated to other private and public centers across Eagle County, she said. The best solution would have been to board the horses in Cordillera, but there is already a 10-horse waiting list there, Jueneman said.
“There just aren’t any equestrian centers left in the area until you get to Eagle,” Jueneman said. “Seven of my show horses are going to have to go all the way to Evergreen, and luckily the others will be in Eagle. After the summer I will probably have to move out of Eagle County permanently.”
The center’s board of directors has tried to find land to buy or someone who would financially back the construction of a new center, but their efforts have been unsuccessful, Jueneman said.
When the master plan for the Berry Creek area was created in 2003, Jueneman said the board was told they would be able to keep just under 20 acres of land where Colorado Mountain College is now located, but the land was ultimately given to the college.
The possibility of providing equestrian facilities at the county’s fairgrounds was also discussed during its planning process, Jueneman said.
But Keith Montag, Eagle County’s director of community development, said providing a space for horses was only a suggestion and never a part of the fairgrounds plan.
For the county to turn its back on horses and those who love to ride them is “poor judgment,” Albers said.
“Since I’ve moved to Leadville I have seen what it can be like when a county makes equestrian needs a part of the overall community,” Albers said. “In Eagle County there isn’t a place for horse owners, and there isn’t anyone left willing to fight for it.
“The ones who will suffer are all the little girls who dream about having a horse of their own to ride,” Albers added.
Staff writer Alison Miller can be reached at 748-2928 or email@example.com.