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- April 30th, 2021 - Communities, Trail Riding

Rancho Cucamonga

Once a rural area known for grapevines and agriculture, Rancho Cucamonga is located about 40 miles east of Los Angeles. Alta Loma is a subsection of Rancho Cucamonga that is home to most of the area’s equestrian-zoned properties as well as several large boarding/training facilities. Natalie Beechler, president of the Alta Loma Riding Club, submitted this account to “Close To Home” — sharing her community’s challenges and the tactics required to preserve the area’s horse heritage.

I want to share some stories of what has been our strategies in our quest to maintain an area that is overrun with developers attempting to rezone our historically preserved equestrian overlay that the founders of the city put into place many decades ago.

As Rancho has become more urbanized, we have been struggling as a horse community to maintain our trail system and equestrian center. A few decades ago, the city built a public equestrian center in order for the residents to have a place to hold equestrian events and for drop in use. Fast forward to today, and when a tax measure didn’t pass that the city really wanted to go through, the response was that they would not maintain the park any longer. Residents saw this as the first step in an effort for the city to repurpose the park for development.

Our local riding club stepped up to the plate and to this date the equestrian park is being maintained by volunteers in the community.

About three years ago, the city acquired land from the county that lies in what was a zoned equestrian overlay area, preplanned with miles of equestrian trail system connecting to our existing areas. Plans were immediately made to rezone the area to high density and commercial development — with a developer already identified before the city even had acquired the area. There was massive public outcry, as there was nobody in our city that wanted the area to undergo urban development.

After many rowdy city council meetings, the city indicated it was going to have a “workshop” where residents could come and indicate what future they desired for the area. ALRC loaded up our horses, trailered down to the meeting hall, and we mounted up to prior to attending the “workshop” to convey how important maintaining and preserving the equestrian lifestyle is to our community. The news was there, and an article was written in the Inland Daily Bulletin regarding our efforts:

See the article here: http://bit.ly/105ranchospeaksout

The photographer got award-winning pictures that evening, I might add! Personnel from the development company were stressfully stomping around the meeting hall when they were realizing how many had attended to oppose their multi-billion dollar venture. It was a unanimous push from the community — no high density/commercial/or urban development. Members of the city staff were also conversing with the developers in an effort to calm them.

What followed were a series of “online surveys” which allowed anybody from anywhere to participate on what their vision was for the area. Mysteriously, the responses they managed to receive were no where near aligned with what the community members who were willing to show up physically indicated was of value — rather, the responses were those aligned with big city urban developers.

What happened next was two-fold:

  1. A well-traveled trail had been washed out during a storm and required repair to be passable. It was the main artery on the north end connecting the east and west portions of the equestrian trail system. The city indicated they weren’t going to repair it as they simply had no funding.
  2. At the same time, the city indicated to the equestrian club that the bridges that provide access across a wash leading to the equestrian center were degraded to the point of being impassable. Also, that the city didn’t have the money to fix it—in essence cutting off riding access to the equestrian park from 2 (and maybe eventually all) of the three access points. Once again, Alta Loma Riding Club members trailered down to city hall during a city council meeting and rode outside while others went in with stick horses and packed the entire seating. We did so to clearly communicate to the city council that in a city of this caliber and a city manager who gets paid well above a normal salary—there was no reason they couldn’t allocate funds for basic infrastructure of our public parks and trails. An article was also done for this story: https://www.dailybulletin.com/2019/12/17/horse-riders-to-rancho-cucamonga-fix-trail-bridges-to-heritage-park-dont-remove-them/

To date, the city did repair the public trail which is so beloved and widely used by hikers, bikers, and equestrians in the community. As the writing was on the wall, we begin blowing up social media, acquired hundreds of signatures on a petition we launched on change.org and were heading to the press. The bridges have been patch worked together with Band-Aid repairs, but a resolution has not been put forth to this point and they are still in use.

This is our personal story. I have included pictures from our various efforts, newspaper articles, and flyers we used to help get people in the know and onboard. We have used social media, online platforms, door to door flyers, and community outreach to help communicate with the community about such issues.

Our relation to our City Council appears amicable at present, and we are trying to build positive relations within the city staffers—but the fact remains, the only reason we were even listened to, was due to the bad publicity and press—social media is a powerful tool as well. Particularly now, after COVID-19, the value of all outdoor activities (and particularly equestrian) has been no more apparent. To ensure our mental and physical health and overall well-being, horseback riding and the rural lifestyle must be protected and preserved—now more than ever.

So thanks for soliciting for personal stories of recent trials in the equestrian communities. Your April article resonated and I wanted to reach out and share ours. It can be done, but we need champions to lead the brigade and we must support one another. Our local riding directors have been reaching out via social media to other equestrian groups to come ride our trails and they love them! It also builds strong support and connections should we need other resources to draw upon in a time of need.

Please let me know if you would be interested in highlighting our town, trails, and/or stories, if our strategies can help “neigh”boring equestrian communities, it’s all worth it!

Natalie Beechler
ALRC President

Is your club or community organizing an effort to preserve its horse heritage? Let us know! Send your info to communities@horsetrader.com

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