Foothills Equestrian Nature Center reflects on its goals and mission

Published 10:00 pm Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Foothills Equestrian Nature Center (FENCE) has been an important facet in the community since 1984 when it was established by its founding fathers, Jim Flack, Dave Kirby, Paul Culberson, Gus Hoffman, and Tom Moore.

Initially FENCE began as an idea, an idea to bring the community together by having a place that both nature lovers and equestrian lovers could enjoy, and as with any non-profit organization it took years to establish and obtain land for the property. FENCE started off with just over 100 acres, a generous donation from the Mahler family. Over the years FENCE has been able to expand and it now stands at 384 acres of land.

During FENCE’s 32 years of existence there have been many changes but one thing that has always remained the same is the commitment to serving the community and the people who reside within our local counties.

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Recent happenings at FENCE

As with any organization, FENCE has recently gone through a renewing phase where staff and board members sat down and met on a weekly basis to discuss and brainstorm a new strategic plan for the organization. During the strategic planning meetings it became clear that FENCE was still holding true to its most recent mission statement, to serve as a community resource for the preservation of green space and for educational and recreational opportunities linking nature, animals, and people, but they could be doing better.

FENCE has started to make some changes already and intends to keep the improvements coming in following years. Below are some of the most recent updates for FENCE.

Tracie Hanson named FENCE executive director

The Board of Directors of Foothills Equestrian Nature Center is pleased to announce the promotion of Tracie Hanson to the position of executive director.

Hanson has been employed at FENCE since 2006, when she became its nature director. In that role she created and enhanced nature programs; expanded FENCE’s outreach into North and South Carolina schools; and educated children during field trips and at FENCE’s summer camps.

Hanson was promoted to operations manager in 2014 and became responsible for day-to-day operations and managing the FENCE staff. During her time at FENCE she has also achieved Master Naturalist Certification through Clemson University; Environmental Education Certification through the NC Department of Environmental Education; and Non-Profit Management Certification through Duke University.

As executive director, Hanson will oversee all leadership aspects of FENCE, working with the board of directors.

Hiring in process

Currently FENCE is in the process of adding a couple of new members to its team. They are hiring a development manager, who will oversee the implementation of a strategic approach to fundraising, and a TROT program director, who will oversee the TROT program at FENCE including organizing students, volunteers, and horses.

Updates at the house and on the FENCE property

One of the big goals FENCE has for this year is to update and refresh all of the hiking trails on the property. Chuck Hearon and community volunteers have been hard at work cleaning up the FENCE trails and making them more user friendly. New trail signage and maps are also in the works.

An anonymous donor has paid to have ring B on the equestrian side completely re-fenced. The downstairs including the bathrooms in the nature center have been remodeled.

FENCE summer camp is just around the corner! 

FENCE is dedicated to serving the community and one of our favorite times of the year is almost upon us! FENCE offers a variety of weeklong summer camp programs including a beginner horse camp, intermediate horse camp, all day camp, art camp, and environmental camp. We have lots of fun activities planned for the kids this summer and FENCE is still accepting summer camp applications. If interested in enrolling your child in FENCE summer camp please call FENCE or visit our website.

More about FENCE

FENCE is a non-profit 501c3 organization dedicated to serving as a community resource for the preservation of green space and for educational and recreational opportunities linking nature, animals and people.

FENCE’s 384 acres include five miles of hiking and walking trails and extensive equestrian facilities that host a variety of competitions throughout the year. It is also home to Therapeutic Riding of Tryon (TROT), which provides interaction with horses in a safe and supportive environment for adults and children with physical, cognitive or developmental disabilities.

The Nature Center at the “FENCE House” hosts monthly family-friendly educational programs and has an animal exhibit room and classroom; the facility is also available as a venue for weddings, meetings and other events.

FENCE is located at 3381 Hunting Country Road in Tryon, N.C. For information on hours, directions, volunteer opportunities, event rentals and upcoming programs, visit, call 828-859-9021 or email

Come out to visit FENCE and see all the work that we have been doing!

–  article submitted
by Tracie Hanson