By Janice Binkley (Edgewater, Maryland)

The Problem

Horse people in Anne Arundel County own over 10,200 acres. Despite the significance of the size of horse industry, Anne Arundel County Recreation and Parks has only two dedicated equestrian facilities: Andover Equestrian Center near BWI and the Andy Smith Equestrian Facility in Broadneck. With limited amenities, these two facilities do not begin to address the need for equine-friendly open space in the county.

There are six trail locations, but only thee have safe or accessible trailer parking, and two of these have locked gates (pass-codes are available via an online application process, but this is not very user friendly). Half of these locations provide only asphalt “trails.”

The Potential

Rockhold Creek Farm in the county’s rural south is a nearly 400 acre property acquired by the county in 2006 with a deed providing that the property should be utilized for agricultural purposes, open space, as a public park and/or for athletic, recreational or educational purposes. It is currently surrounded by farms.

Currently, part of the property has been slated for use as a retaining pond for the sludge that is produced after local waterways are dredged. According to authorities, the sludge ponds will eventually be covered by dirt, but no buildings will ever be able to be erected on those sites.

With a public-private partnership, Rockhold Creek Farm could be utilized as an equestrian venue, which would preserve its original mission.  The non-profit Rosaryville Conservancy and the publically owned Rosaryville State Park could be used as a model.

Like with Rosaryville, relatively speaking, there would be limited infrastructure needs and limited capital requirements. With a public-private partnership, the property, which has water crossings and a pond, could be preserved in its current state, as open and unobstructed fields, with trails through the woods and cross country jumps, making it an ideal location for competitive trail riding, hunter paces, hunter trials and horse trails. A historic dairy barn could become an education center for 4-H (the county has 1,500 4-Hers!), Pony Clubs and other groups. The large flat fields could someday host polocrosse, dressage, and horse shows, and perhaps one day the facility would be able to host the Marlborough steeplechase races (a.k.a. “Roedown”).

Rockhold Creek Farm is a beautiful property and could easily become Anne Arundel County’s equestrian “crown jewel.”