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County OKs Equestrian Center at Point Dume : Will Be First Public Jump-Off Point for Horseback Riding Along the Coast

May 15, 1988|DARYL KELLEY | Times Staff Writer

The Board of Supervisors has approved construction of a $1.2-million equestrian center near Point Dume that will be the first public staging point for horseback riding along the Los Angeles County coast.

Under a plan approved Thursday, the county and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy will build two arenas for horse training and shows--and a 106-space lot for free trailer parking. The 24-acre site is being leased from the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.

"This is terrific," said Linda Palmer, president of the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council, a group that works to protect and expand the 200-mile system of hiking and riding paths in the area.

"I see the equestrian center as becoming the central kickoff area for trail use on the Malibu side, not just for horses but for people who want to hike," she said.

Hundreds of horse owners live within a few miles of the equestrian site, county officials said, and many more owners are concentrated just across the Santa Monica Mountains in the western San Fernando Valley.

A 1985 census by Equestrian Trials, a riders group, found about 131,000 horses in Los Angeles County.

The only existing county equestrian facilities are at Bonelli Park near San Dimas and at the Whittier Narrows park. The City of Los Angeles runs a large horse facility in Griffith Park.

The two new arenas and parking lot are scheduled to be built by mid-1990 in a ravine east of Malibu Park School and west of Merritt Drive, about one-half mile inland from Zuma Beach.

Later, an existing house will be converted into a small community center, and terraced spectator seating and a children's play area will be added, county parks planner Joan Rupert said.

About $1 million for construction will be paid by the county from state bonds, while $152,000 will come from the conservancy, officials said.

Because so much property near the beach is privately owned, public access to the mountains' numerous parks has been limited, said Peter Ireland, Malibu deputy to Supervisor Deane Dana.

The Coastal Slope and Zuma Ridge trails, main hiking routes in the extensive Santa Monica Mountains park system, pass near the equestrian center, park officials said.

Both trails intersect the popular Backbone Trail, which stretches from Griffith Park to Point Mugu in Ventura County. When completed, the Zuma Ridge Trail will link the Malibu equestrian center with a similar facility 30 miles north, in Simi Valley.

The supervisors' approval, opposed only by owners of two nearby parcels who said the center would make their vacant home sites less desirable, comes after four years of community discussion about what to build on the school land.

The district bought the property in 1969, intending to build a high school. But when enrollment declined, the 24 acres were declared surplus and a 40-year lease was worked out with the county and the conservancy, officials said. As part of the agreement, the district will receive no payment but did get assurances from the conservancy that it would not exercise its legal claim on other surplus school lands, Ireland said.

A large community park with baseball diamonds was first proposed for the site, but that facility eventually was shifted to Malibu Bluffs Community Park near Pepperdine, Ireland said. The Zuma property was not used because leveling it would have been expensive and would have damaged the environment, he said.

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