Back around the time of World War II, Fort Ord had a horse hospital to help care for the horses in the Calvary. When the base closed, those facilities and surrounding land were supposed to become a public park. It would be the largest in the City of Marina. Today there’s a dispute over whether that ever really happened.
The park is 35 acres of land just off Highway 1 in Marina. It includes the Marina Equestrian Center, an amateur radio station, and some empty land and buildings. The Equestrian Center takes up 14 acres of the park. It’s is a horse boarding facility owned by the City of Marina, and managed by the Marina Equestrian Association (MEA). The Center is open to the public. It holds an annual open house, a children’s summer camp and offers year-round riding lessons. So the question facing the City of Marina is: is this enough to make the center a public park? “According to the park service no, and according to just an onlooker no,” said Marina City Mayor Bruce Delgado.
Delgado says the National Park Service is fine with the equestrian center, but it cannot continue to be the dominant use of the park. “Right now there’s a few hundred people that may use it in a year. It could be several thousand people. And that could translate into more outdoor time for families in Marina, which we very much need,” said Delgado. His vision for the area includes camping and picnicking facilities, and improvements to the park’s infrastructure. He’d like it to be a gateway to the new Fort Ord National Monument. “Especially now with the National Monument, the city needs to step up,” said Delgado.
So the Marina City Council formed a committee to find ways to increase public access. One of the things they are considering is bringing in new management also known as a concessionaire. This caught the attention of Marina Equestrian Center President Reginald Johnson. “MEA is interested in remaining, if not the sole concessionaire the primary concessionaire,” said Johnson. Johnson worries new management could reduce MEA’s presence on the site by either raising boarding fees or limiting equestrian activity.
Nancy Amadeo sits on the committee. She’d like to get more members of the public into the discussion. “We need to consider what all members of the community want out there. Not to eliminate equestrian activities because I think they’re an important component, and they are unique to our park, but to look at that as a large parcel and what else can we do out there,” said Amadeo.
A spokesperson for the National Park Service said the agency doesn’t want to micro-manage how the City runs the park, but they do want to see progress on a plan for increasing public access.