The dust had barely settled over the new equestrian arena in Riverside State Park before horses and riders began using it.
“Actually, people were using it as we were building it,” said Ken Carmichael, who’s the treasurer of The Inland Empire Backcountry Horsemen, a group that helped build the arena.
On Monday, Carmichael showed off the updated facilities, including a 140-by-240-foot arena with sand footing, surrounded by a tall solid fence and a new announcer’s booth.
Chris Guidotti, Riverside State Park manager, said the project was started with a $15,000 grant to the Riverside State Park Foundation from a group that would like to remain anonymous.
“This group normally funds much different kinds of things, but somehow decided to support this project,” Guidotti said.
The $15,000 grant was used as seed money to get the project going. The Horsemen and other volunteers solicited in-kind donations from Ziegler Lumber Co., Stimson Contracting and many other individuals and groups.
“We just wanted to stretch the money the best we could,” Carmichael said, adding that the panels used to build the adjoining round pen were hauled from Oregon, where the Horsemen got a good deal on them.
The new arena sits in the area where the Trail Town Horse Rentals used to be, on the west side of the river, off Government Way. A Washington state Discover Pass gives access to the ring – no reservations are necessary for small groups of riders.
“If, for instance, a 4-H group wants to use the arena for a day then we can issue them a special event permit,” Guidotti said. “That would close the arena to the public for that time.”
Guidotti said there used to be an arena there, but it was falling apart.
He said that parks staff put in power, water and graveled the road leading up to the arena.
“We have also been thinning the forest there,” Guidotti said. “It’s a lot more open than it used to be.”
The equestrian campground located there now features individual corrals so campers can turn their horses loose overnight.
“We helped build some of those too,” Carmichael said.
He added that the corrals make the site a great stop for people hauling horses across the state.
On Monday, horse trainer Craig Volosing hauled a couple of horses he is working on.
“I live nearby so it’s easy to get here and it’s a great arena,” he said, sitting astride a big young mare. “It’s nice to have a place like this.”
Guidotti said it’s been exciting to see so many different groups and volunteers get behind the project.
“I think we really got something started,” Guidotti said.
Carmichael agrees. He said he hopes to be able to add bleachers and maybe a sound system to the arena as well as more parking to accommodate horse trailers and trucks.
“It’s a work in progress,” Carmichael said while leaning on the fence on Monday. “It’s great. I love to see all the people here.”