Horse facilities become more public

CITY HALL — Local horse owners will get access to public riding facilities as part of a new walkway along the Glendale portion of the Los Angeles River after the City Council voted to move the project forward.

The two redeveloped equestrian facilities will be in an area that’s currently cut off to the public by private property — a longstanding complaint among local horse riders who say it’s unfair that a small group of residents enjoy exclusive access to a public amenity.

Discussed for more than a decade, the new riding areas would be part of the first phase of the “Glendale Narrows Riverwalk,” which will also include a half-mile, 12-foot-wide paved path along the river channel and park areas.

The $1.6-million pathway’s equestrian components had threatened to be the latest snag in the timeline of the long-delayed project after residents of a nearby apartment complex — who have had exclusive access to the fenced-in riding ring and larger arena that were built on public property decades ago — protested the project’s design.

Under the plans approved by the City Council last week, the current horse ring and arena would be removed to make way for new riding facilities that would be accessible to the public.

Residents of the apartment building at 400 Paula Avenue faced off at a hearing last week against other residents of the Glendale Rancho neighborhood, who said it was unfair that private residents had sole access to a public facility.

“It would be nice and convenient for the homeowners there, where we could have a place to safely get some of the energy out before we hit the trails,” said resident Sheri Robinson.

Apartment residents countered that the temporary loss of an exercise area for their horses would be an undue burden, in addition to the added dust and horse traffic public facilities would bring.

“I want to see them use an arena, but I don’t want it that close to where I live,” said resident Donna Martin.

But the City Council ultimately voted to move forward with the project as designed.

“It’s an area that’s being used in a private function … and should be used by the residents of the Rancho as the whole,” said Councilman John Drayman.

The riverwalk project was approved in 2006, but has since met a number of obstacles — ranging from the state freezing a $1.1-million grant earmarked to the project to protracted negotiations with DreamWorks to gain access to a 15-foot strip of land along the studio's border.

And since last spring, officials have been waiting on plan approval from the various agencies that have jurisdiction over parts of the pathway.

“The riverwalk project is a very complicated project,” said Jess Duran, interim director of Community Services & Parks Department. “It requires a significant amount of coordination with other agencies.”

With the latest potential hurdle cleared, Glendale parks officials are now waiting for the final go-ahead from Los Angeles County.

“I want to move forward as quickly as possible,” said Councilman Frank Quintero. “Let’s get it done.”

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