3 years later, city bans horses in Westside park
Is the Westside's Promontory Point Open Space in actuality a neighborhood park? Should the Westside be treated differently
somehow because of its historical, horsey past?
Colorado Springs Parks recently gave symbolic “no” answers to such questions, in posting a “horses prohibited in park” sign recently at both access points to the three-year-old, 4-acre city property between Limit Street and Manitou Boule-vard.
According to Eric Severson, whose title is regional park supervisor, he decided to post the sign after receiving “several complaints” about park damage from horses.
The posting ended the twice-weekly rides through the park by 12-year-old Kelsey McGinty, whose family lives near the park and whose two horses are boarded at a private stable just east of it.
Her father, T.J. McGinty, has started passing a petition around the neighborhood and plans to complain about the decision at the next formal meeting of City Council, Tuesday, May 24.
“You'd think they (City Parks) would take input from the neighbors before doing anything so draconian,” he said. He didn't think the damage was caused by his daughter, who's ridden through the park for months; she's even been instructed to clean up her horse's droppings, he noted.
Other people have been occasionally known to ride horses up through the hilly open space, which is on a small hill with a 600- foot concrete loop trail, a gravel trail along the side and a small picnic area at its top.
McGinty appears to have support from two council members: Tom Gallagher, a Westsider who serves at-large; and Jerry Heimlicher, whose District 3 includes the Westside.
As a former board member of the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN), Gallagher helped bring about the city's development of Promontory Point Open Space in 2002. He doesn't recall anyone calling for horses to be banned at that time, nor would he have wanted it to happen. “We've still got that western character in our neighborhood,” he said. Regarding the recent no-horses posting, he questioned, “Are we seeing problems where there aren't problems?”
The city had bought the acreage in the 1980s using Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG) funds; however, it sat dormant until some citizens discovered it and started saying, “We want our park,” Gallagher recalled.
Although Heimlicher said he plans to talk to City Parks officials in detail about the matter, “this land as I understand it has been used by horse people for many many years.” At this point, he said the “ridiculous answer I got (from parks officials) was they just got this for a park, and therefore they had to post signs because it wasn't a city park before.”
Another Westside political leader, County Commissioner Sallie Clark, asked why a neighborhood meeting wasn't called so people could have input before signs went up.
Severson told the Westside Pioneer he did not think a meeting was necessary. “We posted the signs as we understand the rules to be in other parks in our system,” he said. “This is a neighborhood park. It's not designed for horses, nor is it part of the city's multiuse trails system.”
Horses are generally allowed in city open space properties, because they have less urban types of usage than neighborhood parks.
The original signs for Promontory Point prohibit several practices - namely alcohol, golfing, excessive noise, fireworks, motor vehicles and camping - and requires that that dog droppings be picked up. There is no mention of horses.
Severson said the damage stemmed from one incident in which a horse trampled grass and “native vegetation,” and left mud on sidewalks and hoof prints in soft grass and mud. He did not know if those complaining live in the neighborhood.
Another aspect that bothers McGinty and his wife, Sue, is that they were part of the effort that brought the open space into being. “Open space is for horses,” T.J. McGinty said. “That was one of the reasons for the park.”
Sue McGinty said she remembers that during the planning meetings, “horses were specifically discussed… We worked our tails off for this.”
Contacted by the Pioneer, neither Don Sides, former manager of CDBG strategy-area development; nor Terry Putman, retired development manager for City Parks, said they could recall a pre-development discussion about horses for Promontory Point - pro or con.
Since the signs went up, the McGintys have been driving Kelsey and her horse to another part of town where riding is allowed. T.J. McGinty said the situation is a loss not just for his family but for the neighborhood as a whole. “It's an event, having the horses there (in the open space),” he said. “There are kids who've never seen them. It's part of the character of the Westside.”
Westside Pioneer article