Fairgrounds finds lessee for Horsepark

Del Mar Horsepark
Del Mar Horsepark

(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The Del Mar Fairgrounds board of directors conditionally approved a contract at its Jan. 11 meeting for West Palm Communications to lease Horsepark, which closed abruptly last year.

“I’m excited to get Horsepark opened as soon as possible. I’m grateful to the 22nd DAA for pledging to make that happen and to work with my team to get horses back on the property,” said West Palms CEO Dale Harvey, referring to the organization that runs the fairgrounds.

Horsepark, a longtime home to horse shows and other events, is located on 65 acres about three miles east of the Del Mar Fairgrounds at the corner of El Camino Real and Via de la Valle in the San Dieguito River Valley. It had to close until infrastructure updates to satisfy Regional Water Quality Control Board requirements were addressed. A plan to implement approximately $3-4 million of wastewater management measures would allow it to reopen.

The board of directors that runs the fairgrounds has been searching for a lessee to implement that plan.

Fairgrounds CEO Carlene Moore said in a presentation to the board that some felt there were “ulterior motives” in closing horsepark.

“Clearly there were not,” she said. “This has been a year of work in pursuit of what you have before you today.”

Harvey was the only one who responded to the fairgrounds’ first request for proposal last fall, but his bid was deemed “nonresponsive.” In an interview at the time, Harvey said he received an email a couple weeks after submitting his proposal saying it had been rejected because it did not properly acknowledge an addendum that was part of the request for proposal.

The board issued another request for proposal in November and received two proposals, including one from Harvey. This time he was selected.

The contract is pending Regional Water Quality Control Board approvals and other requirements. West Palms has two years to meet those requirements, but fairgrounds staff will be working with the company to expedite that timeframe.

“We are all very incentivized to get this done now, because I don’t think any one of us wants to see two more years of no equestrian activity at Horsepark,” Moore said.

Carla Echols-Hayes, a Solana Beach resident and co-founder of Friends of Del Mar Horsepark, said during public comment that she thinks “this is giving Horsepark a chance to reset in some really significant ways.”

“The community will be very happy to see Horsepark up and running again,” said G. Joyce Rowland, president of the fair board. “I know I will.”