County leaders, horse owners debate future of Salt Lake County equestrian park

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SOUTH JORDAN, Utah – Horse owners and Salt Lake County council members are at odds as officials debate the future of a struggling equestrian park.

There was a time when the Salt Lake County Equestrian Park was promoted as one of the premier events center in the Intermountain West. But over the years the facility has lost a lot of money and county leaders say it doesn’t make fiscal sense to keep the doors open any longer.

Salt Lake County councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton said the park isn't turning a profit and if they don't change course soon they could lose millions.

"We only pay about $5,000 per acre to subsidize a park, which doesn’t generate any revenue,” Newton said. “Yet we’re paying $7,500 an acre to subsidize the equestrian park, which is supposed to be a revenue generator."

The county would have to invest $3-5 million over the next five years for maintenance, but Newton said with fewer people using the facility, she can't justify the cost.

"A million dollars a year is a lot to ask taxpayers for one form of recreation," Newton said.

Spread across 120 acres in South Jordan, the park houses an indoor arena, a racetrack, horse stalls and a polo field. It also hosts various events year round.

Roger Rees, owner of the South Valley Large Animal Clinic, said the problem is parts of the park are underutilized and leaders may not realize the real financial impact.

"There’s a huge investment sitting there," Rees said.

Rees signed a petition along with hundreds of residents who use the park regularly to keep the facility open.

"They need to look at the total picture: what comes to the county as a result of people owning, caring for, showing and managing a horse population? It’s much bigger then the commissioners may understand," Rees said.

The park won’t be shutting down in the near future. The Salt Lake County Mayor’s office is expected to give the council some alternatives by spring and from there, a more definitive plan should be in place by November when they finalize the county budget.