On September 8, Marina City Council voted 3-2 to approve a resolution directing staff to negotiate a concession agreement for the Marina Riding Center on terms set out in the city’s request for proposal.
This decision is disturbing for many reasons and there have been many stories published in our local newspapers about the candidates who responded to the RFP. But the critical story is not who will be MEC’s next dealer. The real story is that Marina Town staff think they can
ignore the act that transferred the boarding stables to the city.
The city of Marina’s 1993 application to the National Park Service called for them to cede MEC land to the city as part of the Federal Lands to Parks program. The land was transferred to the city in 1998 and the deed stated: “This property is to be used and maintained for the public purposes for which it has been ceded in perpetuity, as set out in the contained use program and plan. in an application submitted by the Recipient… ”and this 1998 utilization program approved by Gary Munsterman, NPS regional coordinator for the FLP program, included a“ 60 horse pension, self-care ”. The FLP program has enabled communities to retain their recreational assets even after military bases have closed.
This particular recreational asset was built, with permission from the military, by retired military personnel for the recreational boarding of horses. Retired Army Sgt. Allan MacDonald’s role in this regard is commemorated on Sergeant Allan MacDonald’s Cavalry Trail.
The 2013 City Use Program, endorsed by David Siegenthaler, current NPS Regional Program Manager for the FLP program, is the current policy document for the city and the concept plan for the property. Long-term boarding is specifically addressed in this document
which includes “both temporary and long-term private boarding schools”, as well as other public activities.
Since 2010, Siegenthaler has repeatedly stated that public boarding is allowed as long as it is fair use of the public park. On the 14 acre property, approximately 1 acre is currently used for boarding and any member of the public can apply to board for a horse. The whole property is
available for the public to visit horses, picnic, hike, rent historic buildings and any other activity desired by the park operator, which currently includes riding lessons and guided hikes. Additionally, the current park warden has hosted epic and free community events, and
several non-profit organizations use the park for equine therapy.
Now, in 2021, Siegenthaler has ruled that public boardings are banned and has threatened to remove land from the city if it includes long-term boarding in a concessionaire deal. There was no explanation as to why he would make such a sudden turnaround.
For those who do not use the MEC for recreation, it may be impossible to understand how vital this facility is to the region. Last fall, the city received thousands, not hundreds, thousands of public objections to prevent the execution of the verbal eviction of horses from the park (an order which was later rescinded). The creation, history and existence of this park as an active, community-centered public equestrian park is significant.
The Act of 1998 and the Approved Use Program of 2013 are the constituting documents. A long-term pension is a use included in all plans of this equestrian facility.
It is no secret to the equestrian community that for many years municipal staff have wanted to get rid of public boarding schools at MEC. Staff now appear to have “teamed up” with Siegenthaler to make this happen. Siegenthaler unfairly intimidates the city council by threatening to take over the land if he does not accept his new post is bogus. City council should question the motive of the staff, stand up to the NPS and defend the historic and notorious use of this property.
Dr Pat Grant is a retired Small Animal Veterinarian and has resided at the Marina since 1990.