Through the years, controversy seems to have lingered over the site of the former Mt. Hood Equestrian Center at 29450 S.E. Lariat Road in Boring.
After closing its doors as an arena, it was host to several marijuana grow operations, before being sold again last summer. The question, which has remained since Californian businessman Dean Najdawi purchased the property, is will it return to its former purpose, and if so, who will run it?
Boring natives Samantha MacDonald and Valerie Teeters had hopes of restoring the Mt. Hood Equestrian Center themselves under the umbrella of their aspiring nonprofit organization, Arrows of Hope.
When negotiating a contract with Najdawi, the duo found that their involvement would not be financially possible, and MacDonald and Teeters say they had no choice but to walk away.
That said, Najdawi, with the help of new facility Director Kellie Puckett, has decided to take on the task of bringing the center back for community use himself.
Knowing questions about the center's future are still abundant, Puckett will host a community meet-and-greet event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 18, at the facility. Tours, answers and light refreshments will be offered. This is not a grand opening, but a time for community members to see the center and meet Puckett.
A grand opening will be planned for a later date. "For the most part we wanted a fresh start for the center," Puckett told The Post. "We also want people to come and meet us. I want everybody to see we are moving forward, and we're not cutting corners."
The facility, which will not be dubbed the Mt. Hood Center, remains in the renovating stage, and Puckett noted that because of its size, she will most likely be opening it in phases, but she and Najdawi want to let the community come see what has been done so far.
Puckett has a history of leading children's equestrian programs in Salem and working with the Northwest Youth Rodeo Association. She also remembers showing at Mt. Hood Equestrian Center when she was a child.
"My passion is events," she added.
At this point, Puckett and contractors have just submitted plans to renovate the bathrooms. They've updated the overhead lighting to LED. The 110-by-200-square-foot indoor arena has received new dirt and footing, a fresh coat of paint and new skylights. Eight horses, including one expecting a baby soon, have been moved into the center and will be available for lessons.
Puckett told The Post that none of the work they've done so far has required permitting, but that "we're trying to work with the county to make sure everything is done correctly."
"Right now we're going through and making sure everything is safe and cleaned up," Puckett said. "It just takes a long time because it's such a huge building. We have a great team working on it. We've really been focusing on what's safe for the horses."
The mission of the center for the future, noted Puckett, is "we want to be a part of the community and provide stuff for the community."
Puckett said that full-care boarding is an option she and Najdawi are considering for the approximately 200-stall facility, but the main focus now is hosting educational events and lessons for children and offering equestrians a place to ride.
"We're excited to get events scheduled and have open rides," Puckett explained.
They also plan to have the outdoor arena, which is about 150 square feet by 300 square feet, up and running this summer.
"I know the community is really excited to have (the center) back to its original purpose, and I'm excited to be a part of that," Puckett said.
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