Horses and dogs compete for space in Marina.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Allan MacDonald grabs a wooden cane to complete his bulky, fatigue-green Army uniform embellished with tarnished medals dating back to World War II. The 84-year-old retired sergeant stands outside the Marina Equestrian Center’s dusty arena. Like MacDonald, the horse grounds are a living piece of history.
In the ’60s, volunteer horsemen like MacDonald built stalls and turnouts after the Army phased out the cavalry units. MacDonald kept his white mustang, Comanche, here to parade out at Fort Ord military ceremonies. He doesn’t ride anymore but his daughter has three horses at the equestrian center, which houses about 70 horses. “I’m really hoping that the city will preserve what is out here,” MacDonald says.
But the city is looking to capitalize on different four-legged mammals: dogs. The Marina Redevelopment Agency has entered into an exclusive negotiating agreement with the Institute for Canine Studies, which wants to offer degrees in assistance dog training along with puppy parks and a venue for dog shows. This is where dogs and horses collide.
The city wants Joel Gambord, canine institute chairman, to build the doggy college on two parcels between Imjin Parkway and 8th Street. This means tenants like the Marina Equestrian Association would likely have to saddle up.
Marina Mayor Gary Wilmot won’t say that the horse group has to go, but he implies that their days are numbered. Once the surrounding home developments are completed, Wilmot says, the horse trail to Bureau of Land Management lands may not exist. “It will be like a landlocked stable,” he adds.
Plus, he says the city has more dog lovers than buckaroos. “There is not a lot of people in the city of Marina that are horse owners,” Wilmot says. “If you look at the ratio between horse owners and dog owners, it’s huge.”
Margaret Davis, a boarder at the equestrian center and member of Save Our Stables Fort Ord, says there is no other facility as affordable as the center, and horse owners would have few options if it closed. “This is an irreplaceable place,” she says.
Davis says the center offers unparalleled access to BLM trails and has potential for growth. “There is no reason why this couldn’t accommodate more horses,” Davis says. “I see this as an opportunity.”
City officials say the horses could move to the proposed Monterey Horse Park in Parker Flats. But Equestrian Association President Renate Robe counters that the horse park and equestrian center are incompatible. “We are like the average Joe’s barn and they are the way upper-class facility,” Robe says.
By the end of July, the city is expected to let the canine institute know whether the equestrian association and other tenants will stay. In the next six months, Gambord and the city will evaluate the site layout and financial feasibility of the dog development. Since one of the parcels is a public benefit conveyance, the land must stay in recreational use and be approved by the National Park Service.
MacDonald says the dog institute could be located across the street from the equestrian center. But Gambord doesn’t see how horses and dogs could get along. “My expertise is in dogs not horses,” he says. “At the same time we want to try to help them get settled in a new place.”