A crowd of about 125 equestrian enthusiasts expressed frustration about the lack of horse trails at Don Carter State Park on Friday during an informal meeting.
The park off Clarks Bridge Road is currently under construction, with Phase 1 slated to be completed April 1.
Horse trails have always been part of the master plan for the park, Joe Yeager, regional manager for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, explained to the crowd.
But the funding has not been secured, he said, making a timeline or concrete plans on trail lengths impossible to define.
“We do not have horse trails that are going to be available on April 1. That’s going to be a later phase of construction here,” he said.
“We do not have guaranteed and promised funding, beyond now. We’re optimistic that we’ll have additional funding, but I can’t tell you right now that I’ve got ‘x’ amount or will have trails on ‘x’ day.”
Attendees, though, vocalized frustration at the lack of answers and the overall uncertainty of constructing the trails.
Some say they moved to the area simply because they were told there would be horse trails.
Owners at one time could take their animals on a trail there, but have since been banned from riding horses due to “liability reasons,” according to Yeagar.
Many horse owners and enthusiasts in attendance wanted to know why the trails weren’t planned for Phase 1 of the park.
Yeagar didn’t have an answer other than camping, hiking and biking were given priority because they were
considered more profitable for the park.
But that reply was countered with the notion that several volunteers were ready to clear, mark, maintain and pay to use the trails if the state would just give them the OK.
Others felt there were already plenty of hiking and biking options in Hall County, but few for horses.
Jerry Titlow asked to know who made the decision about the trail construction and safety measures limiting their access.
“You’re not a politician but you should be,” he said to Yeager, frustrated with a lack of a clear answer.
Yeagar directed the crowd to talk to their legislators about securing more funds and speeding up the process.
One woman even came forward speaking on behalf of other senior citizens.
“Some of us may not be around much longer. We want horse trails now,” she said.
Currently, bike trails are almost complete at the park, along with RV parking, rental cottages, laundry facilities and a stone entrance gate with guard house.
Don Carter, who served 29 years on Georgia’s DNR board and for whom the park is named, also attended the meeting.
“I grew up in the country, I’ve loved the outdoors my whole life,” he said. “I hope we can get these trails here for the people to enjoy.”