Supervisor Achadjian's effort to have county take control of horse riding trails fails

County Supervisor Katcho Achadjian lit into the county parks division this week for what he called unnecessary delays in taking control of horse riding trails, saying he’d like to see them adopt “We’ll find a way to make it happen” as a motto and put it on the wall behind the Board of Supervisors.

Despite Achadjian’s ire, his motion that the county take charge of two riding trails in Nipomo failed to gain support from any of the other four supervisors and died for lack of a second.

While the immediate question revolved around the Widmark and Inga trails in horse-loving Nipomo, the larger issue was whether the county is dragging its feet in taking responsibility for trails.

When the county takes over a trail, liability, maintenance, repair, erosion control and the like come into play, in addition to environmental and other county codes.

Providing for all of that costs money, and Assistant Parks Director Jan Di Leo told the board Tuesday that with budget cuts, the parks staff is stretched thin.

The county has received hundreds of offers of trails, and has been unable to accept them because of the costs. At the board’s direction, it has set in motion a plan to inventory them, identify those that are consistent with county codes, and decide which offers should be accepted, and in what order.

Di Leo said the parks division plans to accomplish that in 2010. Her department asked for the delay on the Widmark and Inga trails, as did a unanimous Parks and Recreation Commission and county Trails Advisory Committee.

But Achadjian and members of Ride Nipomo, a South County horse owners’ group, argued strenuously that Inga and Widmark are ready now.

“These trails exist, and we use them,” Ride Nipomo’s Jerry Williams said. “Nipomo is an equestrian community,” and the trails are part of the charm of the community, he said.

Mike Winn, a director of the Nipomo Community Services District and a founding member of Ride Nipomo, said there are about 2,000 equestrians in Nipomo.

Winn said the “automatic response” to offers such as this should be yes.

He called the policies the staff is forced to live by “timid.”

Achadjian said waiting for a more comprehensive approach is “the same old story.”He said Ride Nipomo has gone out of its way to make the trails ready, and it is time to “make something happen.”

“If I can walk it in my regular shoes,” an equestrian can ride a horse on it, said Achadjian, who has walked on the trails.

Linda Clark of Ride Nipomo said she feared the trails would not be accepted next year, either.

However, the board went along with its staff and commission. Pandora Nash-Karner of the Parks and Recreation Commission said it is simply good business to look at the larger picture before making decisions that will affect the county budget.

Supervisor Adam Hill concurred, adding “I don’t think ad hoc acceptance (of trails) is a good approach. This is being posed as ‘if we don’t do this, we’ll lose the trail (offer).’ That’s not the case.”

Hill said his decision in no way denigrated the work of Ride Nipomo, which he and others praised.

Supervisor Jim Patterson added that other parts of the county have similar trail offers that need to be analyzed in terms of cost, level of benefit and the like.