Ensconced in the eastern edge of Escondido between the Humane Society and Dog Park, the Charros Arena and its surroundings serve as a staging ground for hikers, bikers, and horse riders. The south end of Daley Ranch’s Caballo trail also starts there.
Earmarked a few years ago to contain city utility vehicles, the approximately 20-acre area is evolving toward a more resident-friendly use. With the coalescence of local groups including El Caballo Conservancy, the Escondido Charros, Eureka Springs Homeowners Group, and the Humane Society, an equine-centric El Caballo Park is taking shape.
Last April, the City of Escondido awarded a $50,000 contract to landscape architect Tim Smith to generate the park’s master plan. With enthusiastic public input during three public meetings held in September, October, and November, Smith created a park containing an upgraded Charros Arena and four additional arenas 55 feet in diameter.
El Caballo Park
“We’ll also have a 100-by-200-foot arena that can be used for a lot of different things and an additional 40-by-60-foot arena which will likely be used for therapeutic riding,” Smith explains. “We also proposed a building for community events with plenty of parking for trailers and cars. We’re looking to create some nature-exploration spaces and really play up the natural environment there.”
Loretta McKinney, director of Escondido’s Library & Community Services, said, “The whole purpose of the master plan is to create a document for [organizers] to say we have this ready. I think what the community has come up with is really wonderful.”
Describing the process, McKinney said, “After three public meetings, the proposed master plan goes to the city appearance committee as well as the community services commission and the planning commission. City public utilities reviews it along the way prior to review by the two commissions. The two commissions meet in January and will make recommendations. Hopefully, the plan will go to the city council in February, where Mr. Smith will make his presentation and obtain city-council acceptance.”
After approval of the master plan, the city council could find money in the budget or direct the park organizers to independently raise money to fund the parks creation.
Ben Cueva, board member of El Caballo Park Conservancy and president of Charros de Escondido, is also a strong supporter of the creation of the new park. Cueva would like to see the park developed in stages since funding will be an issue.
“People have volunteered to donate equipment, like bulldozers and paving, but this park would be a wonderful addition to the city and it merits some [financial] participation by the city, too,” Cueva said.
“The master plan is just a narrative document; then comes design-development phase,” said McKinney. “That phase creates construction documents that will meet all the codes and allow permits to be issued. Including the environmental impact study, etc., it could take one to two years to complete the whole process. But when it’s done and approved, money will need to be allocated by the city and/or raised by the community. We envision a mult-step process to park development.”