NORMAN — When the gate closed for the last ride at Thunderbird Riding Stables July 14, horse enthusiasts lost their local playground. There was no longer any public place in Norman for trail riding.
The stables, a state park concessionaire, closed in July after nearly 40 years at the lake. Thousands of riders had made use of the network of sandy trails that bordered Thunderbird.
A local group wants to make use of the dormant trails. Dozens of riders met with state and local officials this past week to explore the possibility of reopening the area for trail riding.
“We are trying to gain public access to the trails that are still there,” said Rusty Rasmussen, one of the meeting’s participants. “They are working on a long-range plan for the area.”
The meeting was hosted by state Rep. Aaron Stiles, R-Norman. Also on hand were the parks manger and Norman City Council member Lynn Miller.
The idea would be a couple of weekends a month the trails would be open for public use, with a small day pass fee for riders. There’s already ample parking for trailers.
Stiles said there seems to be tremendous interest in starting the process of reopening the tails.
“How we do that is not for certain,” he said. “We’re trying to get people’s input. It’s their land.”
At the meeting, state officials talked about some of their goals for the land.
“They just want to see that the land is healed up. There is some erosion and some compaction. Whatever tenant is out there, we want to be good stewards of the land.”
If it reopens Thunderbird would be the 18th public and private trail for riders in the state. An idea pushed at the meeting would be to allow a temporary opening while a long-range plan is put together with state and federal interests.
A mixed-use trail is open at Lake Stanley Draper in northeast Cleveland County but riders have to share space with motorcycles and bicycles, not always a good recipe for pleasure.
There are trailheads for horses and riders at eight state parks and nine private areas. Rasmussen said opening the trail would be a boost for tourism.
“It’s a great asset to the city,” Rasmussen said.