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IRVINE : Council Balks at Tax for Equestrian Trail

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Plans to create a winding equestrian and hiking trail through the center of the city has hit a snag because the City Council refused recently to assess residents the $40 a year needed to pay for the project.

Though many in the city support the concept, officials said it was unfair to make Irvine homeowners pay for it when the city prohibits residents from boarding horses.

“I don’t think we want people crisscrossing our city on their horses with our residents paying for it,” Mayor Michael Ward said.

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The proposed trail would run along the San Diego Creek and link up with a countywide equestrian route system.

County officials as well as outdoor enthusiasts have hailed the system, saying it will one day allow hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians to roam to different parks throughout the county without dealing with surface street traffic.

At a council meeting last month, several horse riders urged officials to approve the plan. But council members rejected it, saying they couldn’t justify taxing residents in newer developments such as Westpark $40 a year for the next 20 years.

Ward and others said the trail assessment could be much less if the county did not insist on modifying the San Diego Creek channel while the trail is being completed.

The county wants the channel paved at several intersections so that maintenance trucks can pass through the area to make inspections.

The creek trail would pass under several major roadways, including the San Diego Freeway, Michelson Drive and Barranca Parkway.

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“If the county wants it, the county should pay for it,” Ward said.

An existing bike trail along the creek will not be affected by the council’s action.

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