Page updated and maintained byAmanda McCoy and Cathy Micali
Heritage Park is a 350+ acre county park in south Oconee between Watkinsville and Madison. The facility has miles of trails, a large covered arena and 30+ stall barn surrounded by acres of wide open meadow, as well as various buildings of historical significance that have been moved to the park from around the county. There are hiking, biking, and horse riding trails. The equestrian trails are VERY WELL maintained and many members of the local community ride there regularly. Parking and the trails are free and easy to access. You can read more about the park (and find a park trail map!) on the Oconee County Parks & Recreation website for Heritage Park.
Although Heritage has a lot of great features, it is not being used to its full potential. The AAHC team has a vision for its use and is currently working on a written proposal to offer solutions and fundraising ideas to the county parks and recs department. If you are interested in getting involved with this project, please email us at email@example.com. If you want to follow our journey, bookmark this page or join our conversation on Facebook.
Heritage Park has HORSE STUFF?
Many members of the local horse community are either not aware that the Heritage Park covered arena exists, that the park has equestrian facilities, or are aware of the park but know that the arena is not horse-friendly.
The main issue is the arena footing. The arena is 30 years old and the m10 used in the footing has compacted into a dense concrete-like surface. As horse people, we all know that we cannot ride on this footing because it is detrimental to our horse’s joints. Another noticeable issue with the park (we polled the local horse community) is difficulty of booking. We are still brainstorming the ideal solutions to this complex issue and want to tie in the public to encourage future use of the facilities.
The park website states “The large open air arena at Heritage Park was created with agricultural and special events in mind.”, but actual events are few and far between. Dog agility trials, Fire Department Touch a Truck events, and the occasional rodeo pop up every once in a while, but there is no reason why there it should be sitting empty the majority of the year!
Our mission here at AAHC is to stimulate the growth of the local horse community. We would love to see the Heritage Park arena improved so it can be used as it was originally designed – for agricultural use and special events. Part of our goal is also to encourage land conservation, and the best way to keep open land for riding is to ride on it and show how valuable it is! This is why we are pushing for improvements.
In our community, land for horses and equestrians no longer exists unintentionally. If we, as a community, do not push to maintain and INTENTIONALLY USE facilities like Heritage Park, then they will cease to exist. If we want land to ride on in the future, then equestrians MUST make use of facilities like this. There were rumors a few years ago of closing the open walls of the arena and turning it into an office building for the county.Amanda McCoy
Park Potential for Horse Events
The trails at Heritage see a lot of use. They are well maintained, well marked, and shaded with a variety of terrains. The trails are mixed use with mountain bikers and hikers on mostly separate paths with the occasional multi-purpose trail. There are established rules about hikers and cyclists yielding to riders and their horses, but as most trail riders have experienced, some people can be quite clueless about how scary a bike running up on a horse can be. In order to foster cooperation and harmony between trail users, it is important to respect the trail markings and communicate. Hopefully as we make Heritage an even more equestrian friendly space, cyclists and hikers will become more familiar with how to act around horses and issues will decline. Ideally we will be able to partner with the strong cycling community in the area to maintain trails and push for improvements together.
Heritage park has A LOT of potential. For us here at AAHC, we foresee jump schools, obstacle course challenges, games, barrel racing runs, and more! Input from the community is wanted so we can build the best facility possible.
Current and Future Improvements
Critical High Impact Improvements
- Improve arena footing
- Update event booking process
- Extend fencing to tree line (about 50′ and will block horses from being able to easily get to a busy highway)
- Add a barrier between the arena footing and concrete
- Add an additional outdoor arena
- Install another well
- Build XC questions and an obstacle course
Rec Affairs Committee Meeting
On May 18th, the Oconee Parks & Rec Recreation Advisory Committee met and I (Amanda McCoy) spoke to them about Heritage Park. This is a board of Oconee County residents that oversees the Parks and Rec Department. I laid out the community’s desire for improvements, our vision for the park, and why it was so important. It was a productive conversation that both parties gained information from.
The committee seemed very open to the proposal and suggested solutions. They were pleased that a written proposal is being actively worked on, and requested some additional data. Lisa Davol, the head of Oconee Parks and Rec, asked that we work with her and her team to prepare the proposal for the committee.
Along with the positive reception, I learned that an Oconee Park Foundation 501c3 is being created to help raise funds to be allocated for specific projects. This is incredibly helpful when it comes to raising money and knowing that it will go directly to the projects we intend it to. And who doesn’t love a tax deductible donation?!
I also learned that there is a Mountain Biking Club being formed. This ties in with the need for partnership with the cyclists. Since there has been (and may always be) some friction between the two groups on trails, I saw this as an educational opportunity. I offered to bring some horses to meet with the club and provide some perspective on the challenges a horse rider faces when encountering cyclists. Heritage Park would be a great place to host such an event, and would be so beneficial to the community!
AAHC Upcoming Event at Heritage Park
The admins here at AAHC are working on an event for this fall at Heritage Park. We may make some changes, but the event currently has at least two components – a jump school on the grassy area and an obstacle challenge. Details will be available on this website and on AAHC social media.
Once again, if you are interested in helping with this project, please reach out through email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or on social media.