The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders is pleased to announce a major renovation and expansion of Watchung Stables, the county’s public riding facility. The project includes a new indoor riding ring to enable year-round use of the stable, bringing in additional revenue while providing more Union County residents with affordable access to a popular sport.
The Freeholder Board voted to approve the project during its regular public meeting on Thursday, September 10, and the start of construction was marked in a groundbreaking ceremony today.
“The dream of year-round riding at Watchung Stables has been percolating for almost 30 years, and now we have the opportunity to open up this unique sport to more County residents,” said Freeholder Bruce H. Bergen. “Horseback riding teaches valuable life lessons, and on behalf of the Freeholder Board we are proud to preserve and improve this longstanding Union County tradition.”
Watchung Stables is located in the Watchung Reservation, on Summit Lane in Mountainside. Currently the facility has no indoor riding ring, limiting its use to seasonable weather from April 1 to November 1.
The stable’s Watchung Mounted Troops youth program currently serves approximately 700 children yearly, many of whom volunteer at the stable and perform related community service projects when they are not riding.
Watchung Stables also offers classes and programs for adults and casual riders, activities for non-riders, and boarding services for privately owned horses.
“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 Sergio Granados who is the Freeholder Board’s liaison to the Department of Parks and Recreation.
Watchung Stables has 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 Stable was established to provide all County residents with access to a popular activity that would otherwise require membership in private clubs and riding facilities.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 stable work.
“With a year-round ring and other improvements, Watchung Stables can provide more programs for more riders, and provide more services for our boarding horses,” said Bergen. “The additional revenue offers a fiscally responsible pathway for upgrading this very popular facility.”
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.
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
- Installation of new barn doors to save energy and prevent heat loss in winter
The September 10 vote formally approved a contract of $2.3 million to JC Landscape Construction & Management Co., Inc. of Pequannock. Construction will begin this month and progress in phases over the next 18 months. The stable is expected to continue normal operations while construction is under way.