Following a request from the Fort Armstrong Horsemen’s Association last July, Manor Township supervisors drew up a new lease of the 97-acre Crooked Creek Horse Park that extends through the year 2050.
The property was originally deeded to the Township by the Army Corps of Engineers that operate Crooked Creek Park. Manor then leased it to the Association for a recreational facility.
Currently in addition to a camping area, the Horse Park has a large outside stadium that has been used for shows and an annual rodeo. Last July, the Association asked for a lease of such a length so they could procure a 30-year bank loan to build a large indoor arena where shows could be held year-round. According to supervisors, the cost to erect the new indoor arena was to be approximately $600,000.
However, as of January 1, 2018, a new Board of Directors has been elected to serve the Horse Park and Association President Laura Wilson said the announcement of construction of an indoor arena was done in error.
“That was presented to the Township by the prior president and vice-president. It was brought back to the Board, (stating) we had a new lease based on (building an indoor arena). We are in the process of working with the Township to say that (the indoor arena) was his deal, not ours, as a Board.”
According to current Treasurer Tina Zanotto, the lease was signed by the township supervisors and the past president, Chip Nicholson, but there was never a vote to build a building or to sign the lease with those stipulations. Wilson said the new lease was drawn up with new stipulations put into it.
“As a 2017 Board member, I actually didn’t see the lease until December. We got it from the (township) Solicitor in December,” Wilson said.
“As a Board member, my argument against it is that they wanted to take out a loan. I said that if we can raise 25-30% of that, then let’s go forward and build this great fantastic facility,” Wilson said. “Before we build something new, our barns need new roofs on them, our administration building needs a new roof, our showers houses don’t meet ADA standards and need torn down and rebuilt from scratch. Our equipment is falling apart, so a large indoor facility would be fantastic for the community, but right now we are stalled on that because there are so many (other) things.”
Wilson said that the concept of an indoor arena has been tossed around at meetings for years.
“My parents were involved in the Horse Park since its inception. There were plans way back then to build this facility. I think that is where we are moving (in the future), but for me, fixing what we have right now and getting it functioning (is a priority).”
Last year, the Horse Park received a grant of $123,000. The money was spent on replacing bleachers and improving ADA standards, paving the roadway coming into the facility, repaired some stalls inside the barns, and made various upgrades.
This season that extends from April through October, the Horse Park is booked every weekend with events. Those events include two outside groups who have requested permission to use the Park.
The Fall for Animals fundraising group will hold their annual event in October. At last night’s Association meeting, directors voted on waiving the customary $650 rental fee for the Park, in addition to dropping the utility fee.
Zanotto said it costs approximately $1,300 each weekend for utilities to operate the Park for events.
“So when we give the Park away, that’s $1,300 we have to make up somewhere else just to be able to keep the electric on and things like that,” Zanotto said. “We have been trying to find ways to work with the community and make it so that it is available, but still keep the Park beautiful and useable by everybody.”
Rental fees were reduced for the Ford City Area Renaissance Partnership to $350. The Park will collect $30 per day from food vendors instead of $150. Non-food vendors will be accessed a charge of $15 rather than the customary $50.
Vice-President Christine Blystone said they try to work with non-profit organizers to create a reasonable contract.
“We met with Youth Rodeo. They get free rental of the Park as well based on past Boards, which is great because it is an organization for kids to learn how to do rodeo. We actually met with them one morning and had breakfast, and went right down the contract and figured out what was best for all of us. We are ecstatic that they are coming back for the number of events they have booked for this year.”
Supervisors said that since the Horse Park is located in the Crooked Creek Park area, is must be open for public recreational use. That clause was written into the lease.
The Association utilizes approximately twenty of the 97-acres that is leased.