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Equestrian lease at Explore Park coming to a close

Equestrian lease at Explore Park coming to a close


A partnership that brought horseback riding to Explore Park is coming to an end but officials are hopeful it won’t be the park’s last ride.

On Tuesday, the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors agreed to dissolve its lease with Reba Farm Inn, of Bedford, which come onboard last year to offer equestrian services at Explore Park.

Reba Farm asked to end the partnership, citing in part lower than hoped for participation, officials said.

The operation’s inaugural season of programming was also hampered by last year’s repeated storms, said Parks & Recreation Director Doug Blount.

The decision to end the lease was amicable, Blount said. In an email, Reba Farm said it hoped to work with the county again.

The county has partnered with the farm before in other programs, such as Camp Roanoke, and that relationship won’t be affected by Tuesday’s decision, Blount said.

Horseback riding was among many new amenities that Roanoke County sought to bring to Explore Park as part of its efforts to establish the 1,100-acre destination as a major hub for outdoor recreation.

Other services introduced to date include camping, tube and kayak rentals, disc golf and a treetop adventure course.

Equestrian programs remain part of the vision for Explore Park, Blount said. The county may seek a partner to provide limited programs this fall, he said, and another broad request for proposals from service providers interested in being part of Explore Park will be issued later this year.

These requests have been issued periodically since the adoption of Explore Park’s new master plan.

The most recent riding program did generate some interest. A summer camp offered by Reba Farm attracted 51 registrations earlier this year.

But that was not enough to sustain the staffing, animal care and other costs incurred by the farm for operating a second outlet, officials said.

The county did honor the camp sign-ups but decided to shuttle the riders to Reba Farm’s home base in Bedford to ease the burden.

In other news Tuesday:

— The prosecutor’s office will be able to hire an additional attorney after the state compensation board greenlit funding for the post.

The state board will help with the cost of employing another assistant prosecutor. That will give the local office a total of eight attorneys including the elected commonwealth’s attorney.

The added support was based on a review of multiple factors including rising local caseloads.

The state allocated enough funding to create an entry-level assistant’s position with an annual cost of $62,401.

The county supervisors will likely beef that up to help the office make the job a senior assistant prosecutor. Senior assistants bring more experience, officials said, and are better equipped to shoulder the caseload.

The county’s annual contribution, including salary and benefits, would be expected to be around $36,400.

However, that wouldn’t begin until the next budget year. There will be no first-year costs to local coffers, as the office can use internal budget savings to bridge the gap.

— A Splash Valley Waterpark lifeguard was recognized for saving the life of an unconscious swimmer in June.

Sage Beddingfield, 17, got to the swimmer within 20 seconds, pulled her out of the pool and revived her.

Fire & Rescue Chief Steve Simon said first responders credited Beddingfield’s quick action with stabilizing the swimmer and allowing her to make a full recovery later.

“She did save a life,” Simon said.

Such serious circumstances are rare in county facilities. Blount said this was the first case of an unconscious swimmer in his eight years with Parks & Recreation.

The supervisors said they were grateful for Beddingfield’s vigilance and the pool’s dedicated safety training.

— The county is forming a complete count committee to raise awareness of the importance of participating in the 2020 U.S. Census.

The once-a-decade census will get underway next spring with a goal of compiling a full count of residents across the nation.

The figures affect everything from federal funding for local programs to the allocation of representation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The census employs mailers, surveys and door-to-door canvassing to collect its data. A new feature in 2020 will be the option to complete surveys online.

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