Full speed ahead for new Equestrian Park in Lakeside

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“Her name was Champ and I was five years old at my grandfather’s farm in Wisconsin when I first rode her. She was a dairy farm horse,” says Cheryl Erpelding, the newest board member on the East County Equestrian Foundation (ECCF) created to build the first equestrian park in Lakeside. Erpelding came on board last month and she already made a difference. The project has now a new website, a logo and this go-getter horse lover is set on helping fundraise no less than $143,000 – that’s how much is needed to get this project off the ground.

“Her name was Champ and I was five years old at my grandfather’s farm in Wisconsin when I first rode her. She was a dairy farm horse,” says Cheryl Erpelding, the newest board member on the East County Equestrian Foundation (ECCF) created to build the first equestrian park in Lakeside. Erpelding came on board last month and she already made a difference. The project has now a new website, a logo and this go-getter horse lover is set on helping fundraise no less than $143,000 – that’s how much is needed to get this project off the ground. Cheryl left “California Riding Magazine,” a $1 million per year profitable equestrian business, to come help out the foundation.

It should have been a soccer field, but after a community meeting with San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob back in 2012, the people of Lakeside decided that the lot at 11055 Moreno Ave, corner with Willow Road, should be designated for an equestrian park to preserve the tradition of this horse loving country town. The county of San Diego approved and pitched in $850,000 for a park that will incorporate two equestrian open arenas and one covered that would host a wide variety of events and not all of them horse related. The main function of this one of a kind facility is to address the need of people in East County for a place specially designed for barrel racing, horse shows, roping, gymkhana, reining, trails challenges and also as a staging area for horseback riders who want to explore the near by trails. The idea is to have a variety of buildings and amenities that could be rented by people from Southern California who want to use a round pen, an arena or a meeting hall or a picnic area for community events.

Julie Murphy, the Vice President of the foundation and an avid barrel-racing horsewoman, thinks one of the reason people were slow to volunteer and donate for so many years was the fact that not many really believed a project of such big proportions is a realistic goal for Lakeside. Once the architect hired to design the facility presented the first phase of the plan to the county on June 7, it looks like the things are picking up. Murphy is well known in East County for her passionate involvement in different community causes, such as saving El Monte Valley from sand mining and preserving the horse trails.

“My mom rode horses while pregnant with me, then I rode behind my sister before I was able to ride on my own by the age of five,“ she said.

Morgan was the lucky quarter horse who had the honor to be little Murphy’s first equestrian love. Away from her family on a very hot Saturday morning she is fundraising at the East County Feed & Supply along with Erpelding who is reminiscing about her long history with horses, as an expert in dressage and a competitive racer, now retired due to health reasons and only riding friends’ horses on trails throughout Lakeside, avidly joining Julie in her advocacy efforts.

The personal stories of hard work and sacrifices abound and talking with these vibrant, persistent and dedicated women is more about listening to stories of humble local heroes not fully recognized for their silent, but relentless community work. Michelle DeVries is not boasting either about her many years worth of volunteering to see this project come to fruition, dutifully noting the many possible benefits for the people and businesses of Lakeside:

“Imagine hundreds or maybe thousands of people coming to an event at the equestrian arena and then going out to a local restaurant and buying things from the local stores and maybe coming back for more social events, such as a farmers’ market, a dog show or a horse show. We will build a kitchen and meeting rooms to offer plenty of space and opportunities for clubs, associations and other organizations to have their events here,” she said.

DeVries believes the park perfectly matches Lakeside as an old equestrian town and the only one left in the whole county.

“We have the Lakeside Rodeo here too, so it makes sense,” and also as she points out, “W have El Capitan High School, which is the only one specialized in agriculture in East County.” DeVries still has to answer about her first horse and she fondly remembers that she always rode the trails as a child and participated in barrel racing. “His name was Chappo, it was my family’s Quarter horse.”

The community is fully on board with the project and people are excited to help out by volunteering, donating or spreading the word. Terry Burke-Eiserling believes this is “a good and valuable project as we are truly a horse community. As long as their vision allows for multi-use (a lot like an all-wheel skate park) I can see the successfulness for young kids through adults.“ Michael Evans-Layng talks about his wife Marit who “was really into horses when younger. Got into it again when our daughter expressed interest.” They boarded two horses and worked with a trainer for their daughter who is now working at a wildlife sanctuary in Hawaii, but her parents still got the horses and are very much looking forward to participate in equestrian events at the new arena.

The architectural design is scheduled to be finished by the end of the year with a projected groundbreaking ceremony for 2018, depending on the permits processing, but also on the community’s efforts to raise the sum required by the county for the first five years worth of maintenance costs. 

The foundation raised almost $11,000 so far. People who want to help can enroll as “Friends of the Equestrian Foundation” for a $10 per year membership or participate in the many fundraising events organized this year. On July 20, Lakeside Boll Weevil in Lakeside will donate 20 percent of each order if you mention ECEF between 5-9 p.m. and you can win one of the many great prizes offered. You can also check the informational booth at the Bulls Only Rodeo on July 14-15, so stop by, talk with these wonderful ladies and maybe write a check. The biggest event of the year, “Cowboy Challenge” is scheduled for Oct.14.

Check out ECEF website for more details about the upcoming events, how to become a “friend”/volunteer or the links to donate on GoFundMe and Amazon Smile: www/lakesideequestrianpark.com. You can also subscribe to the foundation Facebook page at www.facebook.com/lakesideequestrianpark.

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