There's a new manager at Seven Lakes Stables, Director Bob Darr told members of the Seven Lakes Landowners Association Board during their Monday, March 10 Work Session.
Amanda Duggan has been hired as the new manager, replacing Kate Pennington, who resigned earlier in the year.
Darr said Duggan has added Sunday hours to the stables schedule, and the Association has acquired a new horse — a 16-hand, 1300-pound blonde gelding. The stable crew plans to ask the community's help in naming the new addition to the herd.
Darr said the jury is still out on whether to return a leased horse named "Bandit," who exhibited some unruly behavior on one occasion. "We will probably wait and see if he continues to be a good boy," Darr said.
Riding lessons are available and may be scheduled through the stables staff.
"There are currently no plans to take any horses off of the property," Darr said. "If we get to the point that our kids are competitive, that will come back to the Board."
Data now available
Board members agreed that six horses and two ponies is the right size for the herd, at present.
"When I started the stables were a big unknown," Meyer said. "The one thing that we have now that we did not have back then, we have data, and we actually plot it. If the data goes up or goes down, that triggers an assessment. We are watching that. Eight is right now -- if the ridership changes, we have a visual indication that the situation has changed."
President Ritter asked whether it is important to have two staff members on each trail ride — one in the lead and one at the end of the group.
Darr said, based on his personal experience, that arrangement is critical "from a safety standpoint."
Darr said a horse he was riding during a trail ride was bit by an huge horsefly, and then ran off the trail. The trailing staff member dismounted, swatted the fly, and got Darr's horse back in line.
"I have little experience with horses, and had no idea what to do," Darr said. "We will not do trail rides without two staff members."
Skaters take a backseat
The Work Session conversation turned to skateboards and the prospect of providing a simple park with a few obstacles that skaters can use for tricks. While several Board members expressed support for the idea, the consensus was that rehabilitating and upgrading existing amenities needs to come first.
"I have been approached for several months by parents who would like to see this kind of facility," Rich Faraci said.
"I am a staunch supporter," Chuck Leach agreed. "I think it is a great thing for our kids, because they have skateboards anyway."
"There are some high liability issues, depending on what you do," Director Darr said. "There are a number of things that aren't that risky. We have kids skating all over our streets here. I don't see it as a big liability issue if you don't do a big half pipe."
"The difference [in terms of liability] is that one is a sanctioned area -- one the Association has created for the purpose," Manager Sohl said.
But President Ritter related the disastrous experience he witnessed at a municipal park in Colorado.
"There aren't a lot of the parks, and there are a bunch of kids who do skateboarding," Ritter said. "Our town built a skateboard park — half pipe and rails and so on. The draw of that facility was such that we were getting kids coming from twenty miles around."
"Some of the skaters are a little bit . . . they are always on the edge," Ritter continued. "We saw a tremendous upsurge in fights, graffiti, criminal mischief. It got so bad we had to put an off-duty police officer down there four days a week. My concern here is, despite a gated community, it would focus more kids on that one area. I think our numbers would soar. And we don't have off-duty cops."
First things first
A landowner mentioned that a commercial skateboard park on NC Highway 15/501 was put out of business by a single injury lawsuit.
"Even if you don't get a claim, it is likely to reduce the number of bids you get on your policy," Sohl added.
"You can get sued for doing anything these days," Faraci responded. "We can't hide ourselves and hide our kids worrying about them getting hurt. They are kids. There are a lot of good parents who want something for their kids to do. We are worried about vandalism and graffiti, but we need to spend some money for something for these kids to do. There is a lot of request for these skating facilities. It's something we should attempt to do on a small basis."
"I would go on record against it because of liability and potential issues," Ritter said. "The bang is not big enough for the buck."
"We have amenities we currently have that we struggle to find funding for now," Leach said, mentioning the tennis court area. "I'd like to get those up to snuff first."
"Are we going to be inviting a lot of non-resident kids in?" Racine asked.
"Probably," Ritter replied. "If we have a nice facility, kids will want to have guests." Agreeing with Leach that rehabilitating the tennis court area is a higher priority, Ritter said: "That could impact a lot more people for the dollar."
"I suggest we set this aside because of the funds that need to be spent on other recreation issues," Darr said, and his fellow Board members agreed.