Equestrian plan for February workshop

By Kevin Hanson-The Courier-Herald

Enumclaw's future as a hotbed for all things equestrian will be up for discussion Feb. 5 during a City Council workshop that focuses on the financial impacts of such a decision.

The session is being spurred by a recently-completed study by Hebert Research. The 86-page document gives mixed reviews to an ambitious proposal that the Enumclaw Expo Center - formerly known as the King County Fairgrounds - be turned into an equestrian center.

The workshop will begin at 7:30 p.m. in council chambers at Enumclaw City Hall, 1339 Griffin Ave.

Mayor John Wise anticipates a good crowd of horse enthusiasts will show up for the workshop, so he will be allowing the public to speak during the session. By law, no council action can be taken on the 5th.

While the session is designed to address the entire tourism/marketing proposal, the equestrian center suggested for the Expo Center grounds is sure to be a prime topic of discussion.

The tourism plan is the work of Destination Development of Olympia. The firm was chosen to arrive at a plan that would brings guests to Enumclaw, capture their dollars and allow them to leave. The consultant recommended the city adopt an equestrian theme, suggesting everything from a makeover of downtown signage to decorative, split-rail fences along the city's entryways.

And at the heart of the concept was the proposal to turn the former fairgrounds into an equestrian center that would rival any in the Pacific Northwest.

Wise has been a vocal booster of such a development, envisioning a public/private partnership that would keep Enumclaw's financial commitment low.

The city supported the Destination Development program and commissioned a study by Hebert to determine if such a move would pay off financially.

The Hebert study included a bit of good news, but cautioned against anything too ambitious.

At the heart of Hebert's findings is the determination that the Enumclaw area boasts an abundance of horses and riders, but “only a limited percentage of those equestrians are interested in equestrian shows and events, either as participant or as an attendee.”

That disparity led the consulting firm to believe there is “a lack of sufficient demand for a new, comprehensive equestrian event facility in this marketplace.”

The tourism study suggested a facility with 500 horse stalls, a 5,000-seat arena, a rodeo arena and other arenas, both indoors and out.

Hebert warns, “such a comprehensive venue is not a financially wise or viable option at this time.”

Not all bad news

The Hebert report was not all gloom and doom.

“The idea of branding Enumclaw as an equestrian destination is an attractive option considering the equestrian environment in the area,” the report said.

Instead of a large-scale facility, a viable option would be to cater to the many trail riders in the area while also offering a basic equestrian park with camping facilities and accommodations for recreational vehicles.

The consultant's research also indicated a willingness from barrel racers to use an Enumclaw facility. The Hebert report suggested offering one or two arenas geared toward barrel racing, then using participation from that crowd as a way to determine the possibility of future expansion.

Kevin Hanson can be reached at

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