The National Capital Commission is placing its bets on a proposal to save a local equestrian park.
The Wesley Clover Foundation, a charitable organization started by Kanata high tech mogul Terry Matthews, submitted a proposal to the commission in July 2012 after the city’s finance and economic development committee voted to stop running the Nepean National Equestrian Park on Corkstown Road.
The commission announced on Jan. 17 it would be accepting the proposal following the conclusion of a requests for expressions of interest process.
The two parties are now working to put a lease in place and get all the approvals necessary. A press release from the NCC said the proposal would require an amendment to the Greenbelt Master Plan to allow for the sports fields and forest school. The amendment was to be considered by their board of directors on Jan. 23.
Jean-Francois Trépanier, chief executive officer for the NCC said the plan is in line with the commission’s objectives.
“The NCC is pleased to announce such an ambitious initiative for this Greenbelt facility,” he said in a press release.
The park’s future as a city-operated facility was questioned seven years ago and was given a reprieve with the direction that it needed to operate on a cost-recovery basis. Bay Coun. Mark Taylor said in July that national competitions offer economic benefit to the city, but two of the major shows that used to come to the park weren't coming anymore.
The facility needed a $1.2-million upgrade and had operated at a loss for the last six years.
The proposal from the foundation includes a:
* Trail riding program.
* The Ian Millar Horsemanship Centre to attract high-level equestrian competitions.
* Forest school for children up to age six to learn about the outdoors.
* An outdoor recreation area including, seven full-size soccer pitches.
* Space for non-equestrian events, including the National Capital Flower Show, the National Capital Harvest Festival and an annual curling competition modeled after the HOPE Volleyball Festival.
The proposal also includes the continued operation of a therapeutic riding program – something residents and organizations spoke passionately about in pleas during a July 11 city council meeting.
Kris Sherry, one of the organizers for Dressage at the Park, a competition held at the park every August, said the event was a fundraiser for the program.
“We raise money for saddle cushions, tack and other supplies for the therapeutic riding program. If we aren't raising money for that, I am not sure why we would hold the competition,” she said, following the news that the city would no longer be running the park.
In July, Sherry said she’s not sure if the new owners would allow the competition to take place at the park and there is no other facility in the city that could accommodate more than two rings.
“We may be able to have a smaller competition somewhere else,” she said.
Karen Sparks, executive director for the foundation, said the proposal was aimed at promoting equestrianism in the city and making it accessible.
“We are very excited to get going,” she said. “The WCF is hoping to make a big impact in the community and this will be our flagship project.”