The inter-web is a-twitter with the rumor that horses are going to be shut out of Schooley Mill Park in Howard County. The following notice has been widely circulated via email (so much so that we can not find the original source or author):

“The county is planning to put a six-acre cricket field at Schooley Mill.  Schooley Mill is the only horse park in Howard County and it is truly a multi-use facility, not a horse park.  Howard County has a long tradition of equestrian activities and as we continue to grow and lose our farm land there are fewer and fewer places to ride.  The county has multiple ball parks, golf courses, and skate parks, but not one true horse park.  The county should be adding dressage rings, polocrosse fields and cross-country jumps at Schooley Mill, not cricket fields.  We need a venue for our horse activities!  Howard County equestrians are supporting our local economy with horse boarding businesses, lesson programs, equestrian supplies, and hay and feed sales, yet the county is not supporting its equestrians!  Please send an email to Ken Ulman, county executive and John Byrd, Howard County Parks and Recreation, and ask them to support equestrians by making Schooley Mill a horse park and putting cricket fields in a ball park.”

Horse folks rallied to the cause. Here is a peek at some of the circulated emails:

From Karen Groner:

They are planning to put a six-acre cricket field in at Schooley Mill horse park. If they would put in dressage rings, PX fields, and XC jumps instead we could have a nice little horse park, even a place for a D rally. Please send an email to the county executive Ken Ulman and the Howard County Park and Recreation head, John Byrd, and let them know you want a true horse park, not a multi-use facility. After all, the equestrian community contributes a lot more to our county’s economy than the cricket community!

From Carol Messerly, a neighbor of the park:

Dear Mr. Ulman and Mr. Byrd: I am opposed to this plan and would hate to see this land used in this way.  Schooley Mill is the only public equestrian park available to riders in this grand county.  The park would be better served by adding dressage rings, polocrosse fields and cross-country jumps, not cricket fields. We need a venue for our horse activities!  Howard County equestrians are supporting our local economy with horse boarding businesses, lesson programs, equestrian supplies, and hay and feed sales and deserve to have a park to use for their sport.  Please stay in support of the equestrian community.  I hope you will consider this as you proceed with the plans for a cricket field at Schooley Mill.  Not a good idea!

From Melanie Wells:

Messrs. Ulman and Byrd – I live in Montgomery County but have ridden at Schooley Mill just recently.  What a beautiful park!  It would be a shame to lose such a beautiful place to a cricket field.  I believe the county should seriously consider other equestrian activities for the many riders in your gorgeous county.  Perhaps an eventing field for cross-country riding or maybe even a polo field?  I just wanted you to know that there are people who don’t live in Howard County but ride there and who would be terribly upset not to be able to go to Schooley Mill. 

John R. Byrd, Director for Howard County Recreation & Parks, has provided the following response:

The cricket field is being built as an overlay on two existing multipurpose fields. There is no loss of equestrian access or use. As we plan and design future parks we will continue to keep the equestrian community in mind. Thanks again for contacting me.

From the official report for Howard County Recreation and Parks:

Schooley Mill Park is 192 acres in the Highland area, with two multi-purpose fields side by side, and they are at different elevations.  One field is twelve feet higher than the other.  The Department is proposing to regrade the two fields to make them all at one elevation, so there is more flexibility for different types of uses on the field. 

The pitch for the Cricket Field will be in the middle, between the two fields.  There is a minor change to the map as the pitch will actually rotate about 90 degrees, so there is a longer area.  The pitch will be an artificial turf surface.  The two multi-use fields will remain natural grass.  The Department is hoping to sod the multi-use fields so they can be gotten into play quickly.