Smoky's Stables, one of the few remaining horse stables in the area, soon will be just a little part of the city's history.
The Metropolitan Water District, which owns the land, has terminated the stable's lease, leaving 150 horses without a home. The district is in negotiation with Signal Landmark in Irvine to develop 41.5 acres next to the Bolsa Chica Wetlands.
But for stable owners Fred and Alexis Burkett, the news that they must vacate by the end of the year was sad.
"We have the pony birthday parties," Alexis Burkett said. "Kids come down all dressed up as cowboys and they have their whole party here and they get to ride ponies. Once we are gone, they are going to have to go to Irvine Park--that's the closest. It's just that here it's real convenient and it's a nice local thing to do."
The Burketts claim they have two years left on their lease and they plan to fight the eviction.
"I've never been so worried," Fred Burkett said. "I'm a fighter and I don't like losing. I'm determined I'm going to stay until it's over."
Water district officials said a clause in the five-year lease agreement gives them the authority to abolish the remaining two years of the agreement with 60 days' notice. Russ Twomey, attorney for the district, declined to discuss plans for the property.
Sue Vernand, 35, of Huntington Beach and her two daughters are worried about where their horse, Charlie, who lives at Smoky's Stables, will go now.
"We were at Fox Meadows for 10 years and when we moved him it was pretty traumatic," she said. "He refused to eat." Vernand said she got a notice from the Burketts that told of the eviction notice. "They tried to get boarders to stick around at that time, but people started putting their names in other places," Vernand said. "We're not sure how serious the water department is. We're just waiting for the final ax to fall."