Laurel Hill Equestrian Facility Moves Forward

Phase one, an outdoor riding arena, is set for 2012 construction.

This is the third in a multi-part series from Patch about the economic and other impacts of the declining equestrian industry in Fairfax County. It was updated at 9 a.m. on the day of publishing to add clarification to the proposal for and funding of a phase two.

was published Tuesday, Feb. 21.

was published Wednesday, Feb. 22.

was published Friday, Feb. 24.


The long wait is (almost) over.

A multi-purpose outdoor riding arena with all-weather footing will soon compliment the riding trails at in Lorton.

“Phase one of equestrian facilities at Laurel Hill Park will consist of a 200' x 250' outdoor riding arena, a parking area, storm water improvements, trail connections and an entry drive,” said Kirk Holley, special projects manager with Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA).  

“The site plan has been approved for construction, and the next steps are to put the project out to bid, select a contractor and start construction,” said Judy Pedersen, public information officer with FCPA.  We're planning to put the project out for bid in late spring of this year, with hopes that construction might be completed by late 2012,” she said.  Total cost is estimated at $900,000.

With the continued decline in horse boarding facilities within Fairfax County -- for example, the , the , and T -- many equestrians have been hoping for a boarding barn at Laurel Hill Park. 

"While the riding arena is a good start, it's only useful to those who own their own horses and trailers to transport them," said Anna Gibson, a horse owner at The Stables at Meadowood.  "If there aren't boarding facilities in the county, there won't be equestrians using a riding arena in a county park."

Footing in the ring will be comprised of the current equine industry standard, a shredded rubber and sand mix on top a base of compacted stone dust.  The parking lot will accommodate 30 cars and 10 horse trailers.

“At this time we anticipate the facility will be self-service, similar to The Turner Farm,” said Holley.  Equestrians will park their trailers and access the ring and trails for free.

“Major funding for phase one is from development proffers,” said Holley.  “When Lorton prison sold the land to the county it was designated to be parkland as part of the transfer, and equestrian facilities were included in that conceptual planning process.”

“The Park Authority elected a few years ago to commit some money to build phase one of the equestrian project at Laurel Hill, in order to provide a specific impetus and a starting point for private development of the rest of the facility for public use,” said Holley.

Funding for a phase two is not in hand.

"There is not a projected or estimated cost for phase two," said Pedersen. "Phase two is simply the concept of Fairfax4Horses to have more developed facilities such as stables, additional riding rings and pasture areas. The Park Authority does not have any funding for any of the elements in a proposed phase two, nor is any public funding anticipated at this time," she said.  If a phase two is to be developed, it will require a proposal and funding from the private sector."

Fairfax4Horses is a a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to the establishment of public riding facilities on Fairfax County parkland, according to the group's website.

The Fairfax County Park Authority Board adopted a resolution in 2005, supporting a Laurel Hill Equestrian Center Partnership to raise money for an equestrian facility at Laurel Hill Park.

According to a 2006 partnership agreement between Fairfax4Horses (signed by Beverly Dickerson for then-President Kevin O'Connor), the Fairfax County Park Authority (signed by then-Director Michael A. Kane) and the Fairfax County Park Foundation (signed by then-Executive Director Robert J. Brennan), Fairfax4Horses will assist "FCPA as requested with planning, design, construction and operations of the Equestrian Center, consistent with the approved Master Plan and Conceptual Development Plan for Laurel Hill Park.”  This is to include:

  • Coordination with other organizations at Laurel Hill to ensure compatibility with other activities.
  • Contributing to the list of potential architects, contractors and operators for the Equestrian Center.
  • Contributing to Requests for Information (RFI) and Requests for Proposals (RFP), and assisting in the review of responses.
  • Conducting fund raising activities for the design and construction of facilities, and for the development and promotion of educational outreach programs to support the Equestrian Center.

“The agreement essentially says Fairfax4Horses will raise money specifically for a Laurel Hill Equestrian Center,” said Pedersen. “It was signed in 2006, and a total of $1,956 has been raised for the facility by Fairfax4Horses,” said Pedersen.  The group's agreement with the Park Authority and the Park Foundation expires after 10 years -- 2016.

“We don't have a specific fund raising campaign — it's just ongoing,” said Dickerson, current president of Fairfax4Horses.  “We’re submitting grant requests and planning for some fund raising activities as soon as the new ring is available.”

“The Laurel Hill equestrian facility isn’t currently an official fundraising project of the Park Foundation, so we’re grateful for private funding that comes for any businesses, groups or individuals, including Fairfax4Horses,” said Roberta Longworth, executive director of the Fairfax County Park Foundation.

The Fairfax County Park Authority has, in the last decade opened equestrian facilities at The Turner Farm in Great Falls, and renovated the equestrian facilities at Frying Pan Farm Park.  “FCPA is committed to the equestrian community in Fairfax County,” said Pedersen.

Full Disclosure:  Burke Patch Editor Susan Larson has worked at boarding, breeding, lesson, trail riding, fox hunting and polo facilities in Illinois and Virginia.  In 2005 the United States Capitol Police Horse Mounted Unit honored her for her support as barn manager during their tenure.  She is a past member of Clifton Horse Society, former volunteer with Simple Changes Therapeutic Riding Center, and current member of the Mason Neck Horse Coalition.  She boards her horse at The Stables at Meadowood.

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Sally Rood February 23, 2012 at 04:16 PM
The Clifton Horse Society is working on stakeholder awareness-building for the new Laurel Hill Equestrian Center -- with support from the Virginia Horse Industry Board, and in cooperation with Fairfax4Horses and the Northern Virginia Coalition of Equestrian Organizations (NVCEO). Thanks for this timely series of articles! Sally Rood, CHS Director of Scholarships, Awards, and Grants
Susan Larson February 23, 2012 at 04:28 PM
Thank you, Sally, I'm wondering why Beverly Dickerson, president of Fairfax4Horses, and representatives of the Equestrian Task Force did not mention this in their interviews with me for this series. Helpful information. In addition, do you have a contact for NVCEO? I tried contacting the group for this series, and never received a reply. Please let us know when and where these stakeholder awareness-building meetings will be.
Janet Lemke February 24, 2012 at 03:32 AM
The new arena sounds wonderful, and I see great fund-raising potential once it's open to the public. Who will maintain it (regular surface maintenance will be necessary)? Will Fairfax4Horses be the governing body (under the aegis of FCPA)? Might the arena be made available for other disciplines (for a fee of course) such as dog agility matches? To whom should such questions be addressed? Looking forward to the long-awaited start of this facility. Janet Lemke...riding/boarding/competing in Fairfax County for more than 40 years


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