Woody Creek riding arena wins approval from county
Against the wishes of the Woody Creek Caucus, the neighborhood will get an indoor riding arena.
The crowd packed into the Pitkin County commissioners’ meeting room erupted in jubilation after commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to approve the arena. The 90-by-200-foot building will house the H2J Riding School operated by partners Heidi Stuckens and Joyce Witte.
Young equestrians and their parents spoke one after another in support of the arena, describing the hardships of caring for their horses in the mountain winter weather. Some argued that the commissioners’ approval of the arena would reunite them with their friends who boarded horses downvalley to avoid the Aspen winters.
In sharp contrast to January’s Woody Creek Caucus meeting, where the majority of speakers expressed concern about the arena’s impact on the community, not one person spoke in opposition to the proposal last night.
Woody Creek resident Phil Holstein waited more than three hours through other agenda items to voice his support for the project. His only reservation, he said, is that he doesn’t want the approval of the riding arena to create a precedent for further commercial growth in the neighborhood.
Caucus members had used the threat of commercial growth as an argument against the project, but Commissioner Mick Ireland prefaced his motion to approve the application with the statement that the school is an existing commercial use, and placing it indoors really doesn’t represent any new growth.
The school, which teaches complete horse care as well as riding skills, has been in operation for five years and moved to Aspen Valley Ranch in Woody Creek two years ago.
Witte said participation in the riding school drops off sharply each winter – a result of the lack of indoor facilities in which to ride. About one-third of the participants quit altogether, about one-third ride elsewhere, and the remainder endure winter conditions outdoors at the school, she said.
The riding arena is to be built on Aspen Valley Ranch property owned by Mary Jane Garth. Garth has offered to make 20 acres available to the school with a favorable long-term lease.
Part-time local Donna Harper, whose daughter participates in the school, has agreed to invest in the construction of the arena.
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It might require a little extra preparation, but there’s no need to be afraid of colder months when going out fishing.