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Enumclaw a horse haven? Public comment is sought

Should the city of Enumclaw adopt a proposal to boost tourism - and give the local economy a shot in the arm - by positioning itself as the most horse-friendly community in the Pacific Northwest?

A consultant hired by the city thinks that's just the ticket - a remedy for Enumclaw's somewhat stagnant business scene and a way to entice visitors from near and far.

The tourism plan has been months in the making and the subject of a couple of public meetings. The only sure thing at this point is that the city wants to hear from the community.

That opportunity comes tonight, Wednesday, at 6:30 at the Community Center, 1350 Cole St.

City staff will host the open house to explain the proposal drafted by Destination Development, answer questions and take comments.

The city spent $40,000 to have an Olympia-based company come up with a plan to position Enumclaw as a tourist hotspot. The company dismissed thoughts of basing the local effort on Enumclaw's proximity to Mount Rainier, because the entire region has relatively easy access to forests, rivers and trails.

However, not every community has a horse-friendly reputation to build on, said Roger Brooks, the driving force behind Destination Development. He and his crew put together a detailed plan that addresses everything from narrowing the focus of the downtown core to improving the look at Enumclaw's entry points. At the heart of the plan is a suggestion that Enumclaw work to redevelop the King County Fairgrounds into the Northwest Expo and Equestrian Center. This brings King County into the picture, since the county owns the facility. It is suggested the fairgrounds be renovated to include more than 500 horse stalls, a 5,000 seat arena, a pair of covered practice arenas and three outdoor arenas, along with other amenities required by horses and their owners.

Consultants said they sought the advice of more than 20 equestrian professionals and hobbyists and visited numerous equestrian facilities. What they heard leads them to believe a quality facility in Enumclaw could quickly become the preferred site for equestrian shows and events throughout the Pacific Northwest.

The city is only concerned with the concept right now - trying to address whether it's a good fit for Enumclaw. If citizens and members of the City Council like the idea, then work will begin to determine if it's economically feasible.

The complete plan is available on the city's Web site: www.ci.enumclaw.wa.us/Tourism.

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