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Whoa, Horsie...?

By Jeffrey B. Cohen

February 18, 2009

The plan to bring a new $65 million equestrian center to at least 60 acres of Keney Park appears to be in limbo.

The Friends of Keney Park organization doesn't like it. The North East NRZ doesn't like it. People on the city's parks and recreation commission don't like it. And word is that folks in Blue Hills don't like it much, either.

Patricia Kelly, who heads the Ebony Horsewomen and is spearheading the push for an equestrian center, is undeterred. City Councilman Luis Cotto -- who chairs the council's parks committee -- never gave the project a chance, she said. And the real, larger community of interested people in the project has not yet been heard from, she said.

"Has the community spoken? Or has there been a select few in the community that have spoken?" Kelly asked, rhetorically.

Kelly wants the city to declare her organization the "tentative developer" for roughly 200 acres of land at Keney Park. Neighbors who don't want to lose parkland in their backyards have come out to oppose the plan; supporters of the Ebony Horsewomen have come out to hail it.

Kelley says what North Hartford needs is more economic development, not less.

The horse park would generate jobs, bring money into the city, educate young people, and so on. "It's a great idea in the best location," Kelley said.

Council Majority Leader rJo Winch says she likes the plan and thinks Keney Park, like other city parks, needs to start making money. She wants Kelly to have the "tentative developer" status by April so she can start finding investors for the project, but she sounded a bit unsure of whether that would happen.

"We're not ready to move it because we don't have a consensus on where we're going," Winch said.

Cotto, though, remains unconvinced.

"Little by little, sentiment on the council has seen the truth that in fact there is not a ground swell of support for this development," he said. "Everyone agrees that the Ebony Horsewomen do a great job with the programs that they do. But is this worth taking 60 to 200 acres of parkland and permanently disfiguring it?"

Reprinted with permission of the CityLine blog of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the CityLine at http://blogs.courant.com/cityline/ and the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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