This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
This week, Salt Lake County hosts the 80th edition of the County Fair. Thousands will make their way to South Jordan and the County Equestrian Center on 11400 South for the sights, smells and tastes that make the fair a can't miss event every year.
Meanwhile, the Salt Lake County Council took action last week to firm up the future of the Salt Lake County Equestrian Center. The message to county residents and equestrian center patrons: Saddle up! The equestrian center is here to stay.
We each believe that one of the critical roles of our county is supporting recreation amenities throughout our community. Our parks and facilities serve as a vital benefit for children to play and adults to recreate. Whether your passion is a soccer field or a horse arena, these amenities are a valuable resource and support a high quality of life for our citizens.
While there has been some controversy regarding the county owning an equestrian facility in the past, the more people understand the versatility of the center and diverse user groups it serves, the value of this venue to the community becomes clear.
Along with the fair, the equestrian center is a premiere racing, training and show facility with indoor and outdoor arenas. Several national and regional competitions are held at the facility, bringing in visitors from throughout the state and region. And not just equestrian shows: BMX competitions, 4H Club activities, and even lacrosse and soccer teams make use of the wide open spaces at the center. Spaces like the equestrian center are becoming more rare with the continued development of our community. And the value is not only with the community uses, but the visitors for these events and shows generate significant revenue to community businesses and local governments.
While the county has valued this facility, we faced a critical juncture this year as additional investment and fee restructuring was needed to continue to operate the center.
After a several month review process, this week Mayor Ben McAdams proposed and the County Council voted in favor of a plan that allows for ongoing operation of the center and proposes a significant investment beginning with $5 million from the Parks and Recreation Bond to fund critical maintenance and improvements. Additionally, the county will continue to maintain and improve the facility over the coming years in order to enhance the user experience and support the safety and welfare of the animals. Going forward, the center will make some operational changes and will be committed to engage the community to better respond to patron needs.
We speak for all County Council members in thanking the engaged equestrian community, appointed advisory group, county and equestrian center operating staff and the South Jordan community and government for working with us over the past few months. We would not have arrived at general consensus in such a quick and civil manner if not for the time, energy, commitment, and the respectful sharing of differing viewpoints from several groups. The willingness to engage in an in depth review of the operations and needs of the center was critical.
With the support of thousands of passionate and respectful users of the center, the county learned of the deep commitment to the facility and its high use. We learned about so many users who have volunteered and provided personal support to maintain the center. Additionally, we learned that users were willing to accept higher fees for certain uses to help improve the facility. We applaud these users for showing their commitment to the future of the center through both their time and money, which will lighten the load on taxpayers.
We appreciate the large number of passionate emails and that those who took the time to directly share their concerns and suggestions with us at the listening session we organized a few months ago. A special recognition goes out to our colleague, Jim Bradley, who has been a champion of the facility for years.
With open space and the rural way of life vanishing in Salt Lake County, we believe our County Equestrian Center preserves equestrian culture while offering a plethora of other uses for the community. That combination makes the center a unique asset for our community. We look forward to working with citizens and users to continue to enhance the value of the equestrian center in the years to come.
Steve DeBry is a Republican and the District 5 representative on the Salt Lake County Council. He lives in West Jordan. Jenny Wilson is a Democrat and an at-large member of the Salt Lake County Council. She lives in Salt Lake City.