Green Creek Equine Park to hold open house preview Thursday

Published 3:41 pm Wednesday, October 28, 2009

&dquo;We thought it would be a really nice thing to do,&dquo; Jennifer Smith says.

With the development of this new horse park, the greater Tryon area is slated to become one of the foremost equine-related destination venues in not only the Southeast; supporters and developers of the new multi-million dollar horse park expect Green Creek Equestrian Park to be named among the top horse venues in the country, like Kentucky Horse Park, Devon, and Wellington.

&dquo;We expect to host all the different types of equine events, every discipline including dressage, jumper shows and we hope, by 2012, the Block House Steeplechase,&dquo; says Laura Weicker, executive director of the Tryon Riding and Hunt Club.

&dquo;It will definitely have a huge impact on the local horse community, it gives us more places to go and a larger venue to hold bigger events,&dquo; adds Weicker, &dquo;We are looking at bringing in new and larger events for the area. That&squo;s the reason for the park.&dquo;

The Green Creek Equestrian Park has been in the planning stages for about two years. Park and site developers and members of the Tryon Riding & Hunt Club officials have been consulting with professional course designers, jockeys and the National Steeplechase Association (NSA) to make sure that they are following prescribed steeplechase course ground regulations as they begin construction of the steeplechase course.

&dquo;The course has to lay fallow for about a year,&dquo; says Weicker, &dquo;after that, we&squo;ll continue to follow what the regulations mandate and the recommendations of the NSA; we&squo;re going through it correctly every step of the way.&dquo;

Supporters of the new horse park say they expect it will give a much needed economic boost to Polk County and Rutherfordton as well, because the park is situated close to both towns.

&dquo;The &squo;A&squo; horse shows that Tryon Riding & Hunt Club has put on for years have outgrown their current locale,&dquo; says Noreen Cothran, Tryon Riding & Hunt Club Board member. &dquo;In 2008 Roger and Jennifer donated this land so we could grow to house larger hunter/jumper and dressage shows. This new facility will not only be the new venue for the two TR&HC summer horse shows, but is already attracting organizers for the larger and higher levels of horse shows.&dquo;

Cothran, also a local businesswoman and owner of The Farm House Tack Shop, says there is a formula that large horse show/event organizers use to determine the economic impact which these shows bring to their communities. The formula is this: the # of horses X (times) 3.5 number of people that accompany each horse X the # of show days X the tourism $ spent daily in that hosting area.

Cothran says it has been determined that each of the two TR&HC summer horse shows bring more than $1.5 million to Polk County.

&dquo;So you can imagine the funds generated when more and bigger shows come to our area,&dquo; adds Cothran, &dquo;This money is spent with our local merchants, lodging and restaurants.&dquo;

Area environmentalists also will be happy to learn that GCEP will be a &squo;green&squo; facility.

&dquo;The Green Creek Equestrian Park has made a commitment to be &squo;earth friendly,&squo;&dquo; says Weicker. &dquo;From managing and recycling water and waste to using alternative energy sources, we will strive to make this a top rated environmentally sustainable facility.&dquo;

GCEP will also create hundreds of construction jobs for local builders and the many related industries such as HVAC installers, carpenters, drywall installers, electricians, hospitality workers, horse trailer dealers, landscapers, and countless others.

The planned park facilities are vast and will include ‐ take a breath ‐ six barns, a Grand Prix field, grand hunter ring, a jumper arena, an exercise arena, three warm up arenas, temporary stall areas, RV and camper areas, spectator and VIP tent areas, horse show offices, judges stands, food court and vending areas, feed and bedding storage, blacksmith and veterinary facilities, steeplechase judge&squo;s tower, manure collection areas, and horse wash facilities.

As the facility&squo;s reputation and number of events grows, local promoters expect real estate sales will follow as they have in areas like Palm Beach and Wellington as more and more horse enthusiasts are attracted to the area.

The park will be able to host as many as 1,000 horses, allowing Polk County and GCEP to compete in attracting the largest, richest and most prestigious national and international horse competitions.

The Smith&squo;s donation of 97 acres of land has been valued at almost $1.7 million dollars. The Smiths also have given an additional &dquo;start up&dquo; fund of $159,000 to begin the site development process.

The Smiths are relatively recent transplants, having moved here several years ago from the greater Atlanta area where they also have horse properties and facilities. They are equine enthusiasts, not professional horse trainers or traders. They both take part in horse shows extensively and Roger Smith is a Master of Green Creek Hounds. Jennifer is on the board of the Tryon Riding & Hunt Club where Roger is also vice-president.

&dquo;We love it here; we like the people,&dquo; says Jennifer Smith, and so both have become determined to polish this already horse-friendly area to a higher luster.

Want to go?

Tours of the new Green Creek Equestrian Park start tomorrow at 4 p.m. The site is located on Hwy. 9 (see directions in box on page 3).

If you want to stay at the park for dinner, tickets for the Tryon Riding & Hunt&squo;s club&squo;s preview event dinner at 5:30 p.m. are available at: The Farm House in Landrum, Ken Feagin Truck and Trailer, Tryon Riding & Hunt Club offices in Tryon, The Hare and Hound Pub in Landrum, Watson Flooring and Appliance in Columbus and at Re-Ride Consignment Tack Shop in Green Creek.