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Former Reagan Ranch Tabbed for Horse Campground

September 18, 2009 by   - () 5 Comments

 

President Ronald Reagan horseback riding at his Malibu ranch that he owned from 1957 to 1967, prior to being elected governor of California. The property, located at the junction of Mulholland Highway and Cornell Road, is the site of the proposed Ronald Reagan Equestrian Campground that will feature 500 miles of public trails. A fundraiser is taking place Sept. 26 at the Mill Creek Equestrian Center in Topanga to help realize the goal of building it. Photo provided by National Park Service, courtesy of the Reagan Family

President Ronald Reagan horseback riding at his Malibu ranch that he owned from 1957 to 1967, prior to being elected governor of California. The property, located at the junction of Mulholland Highway and Cornell Road, is the site of the proposed Ronald Reagan Equestrian Campground that will feature 500 miles of public trails. A fundraiser is taking place Sept. 26 at the Mill Creek Equestrian Center in Topanga to help realize the goal of building it. Photo provided by National Park Service, courtesy of the Reagan Family

It’s an equestrian’s conundrum: There are nearly 10,000 horses residing around southern California’s Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area, which provides 359 miles of horse-riding trails on about 153,000 acres of public park land, but there’s no easy place to camp with one’s horse after a long and dusty day’s ride, according to the Malibu Times.

“In Point Mugu, you can pay a ranger to escort a group down to a campground, (where) there’s a couple of corrals,” Agoura resident and avid equestrian Ruth Gerson said. “But everyone has to be escorted at the same time, you have to pay additional camping fees. I don’t call that public access.”

Gerson and her colleagues in Equestrian Trails Inc. Corral 63 (ETI) have been nagging the California State Parks department for years to create an easily accessible site where campers and their horses can sleep under the stars and dream about the morning’s trail ride.

“I’ve been actively working on this for 30 years,” Gerson said. “It was always put at the bottom of the list, or there would be problems with the location and it was knocked down by the state parks.”

After a spate of false starts, the riders and the rangers have finally agreed on the perfect spot for a first-rate equestrian campground: the site of the old Ronald Reagan ranch in Malibu Creek State Park.

Set on seven acres in a flat, grassland meadow at the junction of Mulholland Highway and Cornell Road, the proposed Ronald Reagan Equestrian Campground (RREC) will feature 30 campsites, with two corrals at each site and access to 500 miles of public trails.

The design plan calls for native trees to be planted to shade the grounds, as well as provisions for truck and horse trailer parking, manure disposal areas, toilets and showers with adjacent hitching rails, a group gathering area with a fire ring, and other facilities to accommodate the park’s much-underserved equestrian visitors. The grounds will also serve as a fire-safe zone for horses in the event of a major wildfire.

But now, the only problem is: where to get the $1.5 million needed to build it?

The parks department, already in danger of shutdowns due to the state’s woeful economic health, won’t be ponying up any money needed to shepherd the project through planning, environmental review, construction and operation.

“We might in the future. But right now there’s just no funding for it,” Ron Schafer, superintendent of the state parks’ Angeles District, said.

For now, the parks department has partnered with ETI in its fundraising efforts, starting with next week’s kick-off fundraiser.

Plans for the proposed campgrounds will be presented Sept. 26 at the Mill Creek Equestrian Center in Topanga and Schafer is among the guest speakers, who also include Woody Smeck, superintendent of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area; Joe Edmiston, executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy; and Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.

The event will begin with a reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by a dressage demonstration at 6:30 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m. A donation of $60 per person is requested.

Cory Walkey, owner of Mill Creek Equestrian Center, was a regular rider with the Reagans and recalls the pleasure President Reagan found in horses and riding. “He was an accomplished horseman and often reiterated Winston Churchill’s comment that the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man,” Walkey said.

Reagan, who was known to share jellybeans with his beloved horses straight from his hand, owned the land from 1957 to 1967, prior to being elected governor of California. It was his first ranch property and it still retains the original barn, stables and some of the steeple jumps.

Gerson, described by some as the tireless chair of the RREC committee, said she is counting on private donors and federal grants to make the equestrian campground a reality. She estimates it will take two to four years before the campground is ready for visitors.

“I need a couple years just to raise the money,” Gerson said. “Unless I find a sugar daddy!”

Comments

5 Responses to “Former Reagan Ranch Tabbed for Horse Campground”

  1. Jan Hancock on September 18th, 2009 11:40 am

    I am willing to donate my consulting services in assisting with the design of this much-needed facility. I am the author of the US Dept. of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, and USDA Forest Serice publication, “Equestrian Design Guidebook for Trails, Trailheads, and Campgrounds.”

    Contact me if you determine I could be of assistance.

  2. Concerned Citizen on September 21st, 2009 1:25 am

    Just Say No – to equine RV parks in scenic corridors. Choosing this location for the Reagan Equestrian Campground in Malibu Creek State Park is an abomination. This facility with mar the view for miles along a designated scenic highway: Mulholland Drive. The fire pits of this facility are also a threat to public safety and will likely be the place the next Corral Canyon fire begins wiping out hundreds of homes. The concentration of animal waste at this site will pollute an already polluted Malibu Creek water shed. (Just google horse urine and water quality). Instead of subsidizing the life styles of a few well heeled equestrians at a time when the parks can barely afford to remain open, I believe the state should consider banning horses from the Malibu Creek watershed.
    There are insufficient water resources to establish the shade trees depicted in this plan. The result will be a barren half paved field full of unsightly buildings, recreational vehicles, and dumpsters storing horse manure. Even if there are a few trees in a hundred years the scenic view will be ruined forever.
    This facility is located within sight of the ridgeline where the Corral Canyon fire started. It is immediately upwind of hundreds of homes in the densely treed community of Malibou Lake. The prevailing Santa Anna winds blowing from the fire pits at this facility pose a grave danger to hundreds of homes.
    This facility is literally a few hundred yards uphill from Malibou Lake which feeds into Malibu Creek. Both these bodies of water already have water quality problems with fish kills commonplace. We already dump enough bacteria on the beach to force closures. We should not encourage large animals to roam the hillsides defecating and urinating next to Malibu Creek.
    Private R & R zoned properties are available for this land use. If this facility must be on public land put it near Sycamore Canyon, less view shed encroachment, less fire danger, less Malibu Creek watershed pollution. Express your opposition to this location by writing Third District Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky at zev@bos.lacounty.gov
    And the Park Service at: info@parks.ca.gov

  3. Nan Kane on October 2nd, 2009 12:50 pm

    I am opposed to the proposed Reagan Ranch Equestrian Center. I believe the Park Service has land that is less environmentally sensitive to fire and more amenable to equestrian and camping purposes. Most importantly, our concerns are the concerns of all communities in our dry, fire prone area, including Topanga, Agoura, Simi, Westlake, Calabasas and Malibu.

    FIRE: The threat of fire is very real. I’ve been a resident of Malibou Lake for over 20 years. Each fire season we anxiously watch the skies and listen for fire sirens. Whether the fire starts on the coastline and moves inland, or the fire starts across the hills in Simi Valley, those of us in the dry brush covered Santa Monica Mountains are always in or near the path of the Santa Ana winds.

    The proposal to develop campsites with open fires at the Reagan Ranch increases the imminent fire danger 1,000%. Not only is the potential location of those fires within 1/4 mile of our homes, these campsites would be a year-round fire threat to any home or land near or within the Santa Monica Mountains area.

    There are serious additional concerns for our environmentally sensitive rural area.

    TRAFFIC: The proposed entrance for the Equestrian Park is at a quiet intersection, Lake Vista/ Cornell and Mulholland: just two lanes for traffic in all directions. It’s easy to see how horse trailers, RVs, and trucks coming to and from this facility will block the roadways, obscure traffic visibility and create serious traffic hazards to bicyclists, motorcyclists, runners and pedestrians who now use this road everyday, especially on weekends.

    POLLUTION: Water. Our community surrounds a small lake that feeds into the Malibu Creek watershed. Our water quality and lake environment are closely monitored by local agencies such as the Sta Monica Mts. Watershed authorities, Heal the Bay, Fish & Game, to name a few. The location of Malibou Lake is just 1/4 mile from the proposed entrance to the new Equestrian Center. And it’s all downhill from the park! A heavy rainfall carries effluent and loose soil downhill, along the gutters and into the streams feeding into the lake. We are seriously impacted in heavy rain seasons by water from upstream (Agoura, Westlake Village) that can flood our streets and homes. Several thousand horses and campers a year will greatly increase the run-off with debris and manure polluting the waterways leading to the beaches in Malibu.

    POLLUTION: Air. More traffic to the park by Horse trailers, diesel RVs and tow trucks adds air pollution. Pedestrians, hikers and local school athletic teams who now jog, ride bikes and run marathons along Cornell Road and Mulholland will be impacted by increased vehicle traffic.

    POLLUTION: Visual. Lastly, the visual beauty of our Santa Monica Mountains are of tremendous importance to the quality of life we (meaning visitors and residents alike) are blessed to enjoy. We, and generations after us, will be deprived of the natural beauty of the now protected views along the Mulholland Scenic Highway.

    Sincerely,
    Nan Kane

  4. Santa Monica Mountain hiker on October 2nd, 2009 5:24 pm

    Thirty overnight campsites in the middle of the Malibu Creek Park? Why don’t we just burn the park down now, and save Ms. Gerson and the Equestrian Trails Inc. Corral 63 (ETI) people their $1.5 million dollars?

  5. Ted Fulton on November 12th, 2009 10:54 pm

    There has been an outpouring of support for preserving the Reagan Ranch and not building the Reagan Equestrian Campground. This support includes a long time friend of President and Mrs. Reagan. See details at our website:

    http://savethemeadow.com

    Thank you to everyone who has expressed support for preserving this scenic historic place.

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