THOUSAND OAKS — After considering nine permanent equestrian sites since last year, the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency is finally focusing on one: 20 acres on the southwest corner of Broome Ranch.
At an informational meeting Thursday night, agency officials told residents they hope that the yet-unnamed site will replace the temporary equestrian center at Two Winds Ranch by July 2000.
"Broome Ranch is our preferred site, and now it's time to solicit public input as we begin the planning process," said Mark Towne, agency coordinator. "We need to figure out what facilities to include to meet the community's needs."
About 50 people attended the meeting, during which horse enthusiasts discussed what they would like to see offered at the new site.
"Do we board or rent horses? Offer lessons? Do we include animal husbandry, and should we focus on English or western-style riding?" Towne asked. "There's a myriad of different options."
A number of people voiced support for Alvin "Bully" Caddin, who runs the temporary 20-acre Two Winds site, which had to move across the street from its longtime location north of Lynn Road in 1995 to make way for the Dos Vientos housing project.
Newbury Park resident Jennifer de la Torre and many others said they would like to see Caddin continue to operate the new equestrian center.
"We feel very comfortable with Bully," de la Torre said. "You need an operator who is knowledgeable about horses and safety. He can just look at a horse and rider and know if they match."
Towne said there would have to be an open process for selecting an operator for the new center.
"Mr. Caddin is certainly welcome to provide a bid," he said. "The fact it's going to be an open bid is no reflection on Bully."
There was debate over how much the new center should resemble the familiar Two Winds location. Some wanted to see more amenities like box stalls and covered riding areas, which others complained are expensive and exclusive to professional and wealthier riders. A contingent of residents wanted to see the center remain accessible to novice renters.
"Instead of just replicating Two Winds, this is a great opportunity to improve and expand upon it," said Jim Struck of Thousand Oaks.
There was also some discussion of how to pay for extra facilities and keep the center financially solvent.
"There's a lot to be said for starting small and simple, instead of overbuilding upfront," Towne said.
Broome Ranch was selected as a preferred site because it used to be the site of Olympia Farms, which raised Arabian horses until the early 1980s, Towne said.
"The site has a track record as a functional ranch and already has some infrastructure with paths and grading," he said.
Being adjacent to the National Park Service's open space land and trail system was another benefit in considering Broome Ranch, according to Towne.
Broome Ranch is owned by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, and since it is outside city limits, Towne said his agency will lease the site from the authority. Towne said he hopes his agency will be able to purchase the land in the future if the city annexes the territory that is jointly controlled by the state, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District.
During the planning process, Towne said he will visit various equestrian centers throughout Southern California.
"I'm going to talk to the operators about the same basic issues facing us," he said. "We want to be economically viable and environmentally sensitive. We also want to offer the right programs for our community."