Union County Parks Director Ron Zuber, Watchung Stables Manager Rachel Baris Bechtold, Freeholder Chairman Bruce H. Bergen, Freeholder Alexander Mirabella, and County Manager Al Faella cut the ribbon on the new indoor arena at the Watchung Stables.
The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders cut the ribbon today on a major renovation and expansion at the Watchung Stables, the County’s public horse riding facility, that included a new indoor riding ring to enable year-round use.
“The dream of year-round riding at the Watchung Stables has come true and will help spur the growth and accessibility to horse riding at our stables while attracting additional revenues to support this worthwhile program,” said Freeholder Chairman Bruce H. Bergen.
The main features of the new project are:
- Construction of an energy-efficient indoor ring that requires no heating in winter;
- Renovation/construction of three outdoor riding rings and six paddocks;
- New surfaces, fencing, and landscaping throughout the facility;
- Installation of new barn doors to save energy and prevent heat loss in winter.
The Freeholder Board awarded a $2.3 million contract last September to JC Landscape Construction & Management Co., Inc. of Pequannock to build the improvements.
“The many volunteers who have supported Watchung Stables over the years have been inspirational, and they highlight how this valuable community asset has enriched Union County over the years,” said Freeholder Vice Chairman Sergio Granados who is the Freeholder Board’s liaison to the Department of Parks and Recreation. “Horseback riding teaches valuable life lessons, and we are proud to preserve and improve a Union County tradition that began in 1925.”
The Watchung Stables are located in the Watchung Reservation, on Summit Lane in Mountainside. The stables’ Watchung Mounted Troops youth program currently serves approximately 700 children yearly, many of whom volunteer at the stables and perform related community service projects when they are not riding.
The Watchung Stables also offers classes and programs for adults and casual riders, activities for non-riders, and boarding services for privately owned horses.
Three volunteer groups raise funds for equipment and help staff activities and programs at the stable: Watchung Stables Auxiliary, Watchung Jr. Hunt Club, and Watchung Riding and Driving Club. The Auxiliary also includes a subcommittee called School Horses of Watchung Retirement Program, which arranges new homes for horses that are too old for stables work.
The Watchung Stables have been a fixture in Union County since the origin of the County Parks system in 1925. Along with golf, tennis, swimming and other facilities in County parks, Watchung Stables was established to provide all County residents with access to a popular activity that would otherwise require membership in private clubs and riding facilities.
The original location of Watchung Stables was in Summit, on Glenside Avenue. That site was lost in the 1980’s when the “missing link” of Interstate 78 was constructed. Work on the present facility in Mountainside began in 1983 and largely concluded in 1985. The initial plans called for the construction of an indoor ring.