Riders give new trails their stamp of approval

— The director of a local riding club that traveled last week to a new equestrian area at Lake Chautauqua Park has deemed the facility a success.

The city recently used $200,000 in grant money to open the 27-acre Lake Chautauqua Equestrian and Nature Preserve, located a short distance from U.S. 19 off Enterprise Road. It features parking spaces for horse trailers, a shaded pavilion with picnic benches, and self-watering troughs, all of which compliment the 1.6 miles of horse trails that wind through the scenic park.

“This is a terrific facility,” said Kellie Sipos, owner of Saddle Up Riding Club in Pinellas Park ( “It’s closer, easier to find and has more amenities than similar equestrian parks I have visited in the area.”

Sipos, who founded the riding club a decade ago, said the city’s attention to details, like the covered pavilion and watering troughs, sets the Lake Chautauqua Equestrian Preserve apart from others in the area.

“The watering stations are fantastic,” she said. “I haven’t been to another park yet that has that feature.

“There’s plenty of room to canter, which is very important, and it’s very clean and beautiful back there. It’s a very nice, well-kept and well-thought-out park.”

The feedback from Sipos and other equestrians has been vital in gauging the success of the preserve, according to city officials.

The city acquired the land in 2009 through a Florida Communities Trust grant and funded the project through a $200,000 Recreational Trails Program grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. City officials say it’s important that the facility meet the needs of the people — and animals — who will be using it.

“We have received a lot of positive feedback on the Lake Chautauqua Equestrian preserve, and we don’t always get that when we open a new park,” Clearwater Parks and Recreation official Felicia Leonard said.

“We are always trying to strike the right balance between conservation and public access, so it’s great when we get positive responses. It’s really nice to hear.”

While Sipos did offer constructive comments about some items she felt the park lacked — a trail map and mounting blocks for older riders, to name two — she said the best part of the facility is that it’s free and open to the public.

“It’s so cool that this was funded by the city and not privately, so there are no fees to use it,” she said. “It’s a beautiful park for this area, and I will definitely be bringing my riding clubs here and recommending it to others in the equestrian community.”

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