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2001/04/12

Trail Riders Rally Support For Trail In Meeman Shelby Forest by Kevin DeBusk More than fifty people gathered at the Baker Community Center, in Millington, Tennessee March 29th regarding the possibility of trail riding returning to Meeman Shelby Forest. Those in attendance included at least one hunter voicing his concerns and speaker Peggy Hart of the Shelby Farms Equestrian Alliance. The park is owned by Tennessee and operated through the Parks and Recreation Department. "It's going to be a long hard haul," said Peggy. "This has been attempted before and it didn't go through. Linda (Dennington meeting organizer) asked me how could we possible get this to go. "I said what you need to do is get the people in the area to form an equestrian organization to work together and get it through. I know this was done in years past and we're going to address that. "What you want to do is form a group and partner with Shelby Forest. You want to develop equestrian trails and multi-use trails. The reason you want to think about multi-use trails is there is federal grant money available to individual organization for these." To demonstrate her point Peggy showed a bumper sticker that came from Virginia that said "Share The Trail." This bumper sticker showed several disciplines and a trail and was put out by the Virginia Bicycling Federation. "It's important that you all work together," Commented Peggy. "It doesn't matter what you ride. The important thing is we like horses and we want to trail ride our horses. We are loosing places to trail ride, you can't go to grandma's farm any more or the neighbors cotton field because now it's subdivision. So we have to pull together to develop areas to ride in that are in public areas. "A lot of times when you go to a park and say we want to put a trail in it maybe that they don't want you in but it could very well be that they can't put you in. They have no way to build a trail, maintain a trail or watch a trail. That's where you build a partnership and say we are going to help build the trail and raise money. We are going to use sweat equity to help maintain the trails. "The deal is are you willing to pay to play. By pay I mean are you willing to put the time in and the energy to go the coarse to develop the plan and maintain the plan, that's what going to be required. It's not like tomorrow there is going to be a trail in Shelby Forest, it's going to be a long term effort." Peggy also warned the group that they have to be aware of the impact they have on the ecology of the forest. "We have to be aware that my one horse can hurt the park over time. Fourteen percent of the forests in the Southeast part of the United States are where our clean water comes from. We all know the soil conditions around here are very erodible. That doesn't mean you can't have trails it just means you have to be aware of it. You have to be aware of this to be good neighbors with the forest." "There are 13,500 acres out there," Linda reported. "There have been trails in an out of the forest over the years. The last trail they had out there was a two-mile trail for the rentals. "Shelby County has the largest concentration of horses for a county its size in the United States. Yet there are no safe or beautiful places for riders other than a small 800-acre area at Shelby Farms." A 4.5-mile limestone road located on the Wildlife Management Area of Meeman Shelby Forest is the site that Linda would like to be open to trail riding. Concerns of erosion, budget, need of increased patrols, routine maintenance and turkeys were addressed. The biggest of these concerns was turkeys. Turkeys are known to nest along side the road in large fields. "Why take this little area of wildlife pristine," said a turkey hunter. The hunter continued saying he owned a horse too but couldn't understand why riders couldn't go elsewhere. Park Manager Randy Smalley told the Review, "We welcome any proposal. It's not our intention to keep any one from making a proposal. We try to look at both sides of the issue and make the best for the resources. Right now there are no plans for any type of trail riding." He said there are grants that groups like this can obtain for the purchase of land. "We can use other parks as an example," Linda said. "We can learn from them and do it better than they do. "I was very pleased with the way it went. I expected about this many people based on the number of calls I received. Some people were gone on a trial ride or we would have had more. It looks like there's a lot of interest." Most of those present said they were interested in forming an association. "The next step is getting with a small group and discussing what our next move is," Linda stated. "We are going to have to form a board of five or six people. Then we will get all of the paperwork and ideas together and have meetings with the members. "I think since the issue is hot I'm going to move on it right away. Hopefully we will have another meeting next month."

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