Guest opinion: Equestrian community voices needed at meeting |

Guest opinion: Equestrian community voices needed at meeting

Holly McLain

Pitkin and Eagle counties have been partnering in open space land acquisitions throughout the Upper Roaring Fork Valley. Saving our local ranch and wild lands is one of the most important things that we, as a society, can do at this time.

My family farm in Pennsylvania is being swallowed up by the advancing city with expanding populations, traffic, crime, pollution and the constant forward beat of progress. I grew up on this 1,400-acre working farm in the Lehigh Valley in eastern Pennsylvania. Willow Brook Farms was famous for Black Angus beef (breeding stock) and world champion quarter horses. We raised corn, potatoes, soybeans and hay in crop rotation. We also raised turkeys and pheasants for sale.

I begged for a horse when I was 8 years old, and that started a legacy of iconic horses, trainers and my father, C.T. Fuller, and his famous stallion, Joe Cody, being honored in the AQHA and the NRHA Halls of Fame. Riding, training and showing horses have been my life. When I was young I could ride all day around the farm, and disappear into places like the Owl Woods. I’d ride the long hedgerows where you could teach young horses to carry themselves balanced at the canter. I would work on sliding stops on a straight long track, where, in my grandfather’s time, they spread cinders from the blacksmith shop. All those places are gone now.

In 1997 the Allentown Bethlehem Easton (ABE) Airport took the back part of Willow Brook Farms by inverse condemnation, and offered my family a small amount for the land. We went to court with the airport for fair market value of our land. After 15 years, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania awarded in our favor, but we no longer had our land and the legal system was the true winner of settlement. Ironically, the airport sold our land to the Rockefeller Group, which will put in the largest FedEx Hub on the northeastern coast. Willow Brook Road, which was a two-lane dirt track when I was a little girl, will be a four-lane highway.

In order to keep our farm, we now generate income with an 18-hole golf course, horse boarding operation, hay growing operation, and a wedding and special event center on the remaining 325-acre farm. When I return to Willow Brook Farms I still see the incredible beauty of its historic stone buildings, large open pasture lands, and grand old hardwood trees that my grandfather, my father and I planted when I was a girl. Willow Brook Farms is an island surrounded by city.

This is why it matters now to preserve and protect our precious ranch and wild lands through OST acquisitions and AVLT permanent conservation easements, which help ranchers and farmers to continue their agricultural heritage.

Because of my equestrian background, I am working with the Roaring Fork Valley Horse Council to make sure that we maintain, create and preserve public equestrian facilities for a sustainable, generational legacy equestrian community.

Most horse owners must transport their horses to access trails for their riding enjoyment. Equestrian truck and trailer parking is diminishing everywhere, and U.S. Forest Service wilderness parking areas are inundated with cars. Without room for horse trailer parking there is no possibility for horse owners to access trails to ride on.

There is an important meeting from noon to 5 p.m. March 25 in the Plaza 1 meeting room, 530 E. Main St. in Aspen. Second reading is scheduled for the Pitkin BOCC regarding Glassier Ag Leases (equestrian truck and trailer parking): The RFVHC is gaining credibility and momentum. The Board of County Commissioners wants to hear from us about truck and trailer parking and trails to access “The Crown.”

At close of the Glassier Ag Lease agenda, commissioners specifically asked the equestrian community to participate in the March 25 public comment meeting. The Glassier OST property will be the cornerstone example for all future OST agricultural and recreational models in the Roaring Fork Valley. Securing equestrian truck and trailer parking with access to The Crown is the first step toward securing a healthy and sustainable equestrian community.

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