Letter to the Editor for Immediate Release
Contact: Lillian G. Burry 732-462-6888
June 29, 2012

Come to the First Monmouth County Open Space Pace this Fall!

Each June, we celebrate Horse Month in New Jersey. Proclamations and pronouncements attest to the historic, revered traditions involved with these gentle, majestic beasts that mean so much to the character and economy of the Garden State. Their very existence at farms, training centers, racing venues and private property statewide helps protect and perpetuate one of our dearest assets – open space.

Sadly, it has become apparent that New Jersey’s beloved and long-thriving equine industry is endangered. Many involved in equine businesses are taking their operations to neighboring, more welcoming states; draining our economy of precious jobs and more that emanates from equine pursuits here.

Facts Demonstrate the Importance of Our Equine Heritage

Data compiled in 2010 by Dr. Karyn Malinowski, director of the Rutgers University Equine Science Center, a horsewoman herself, showed the state’s $4 billion horse racing industry has wide-ranging impacts on our state economy. Horse-related operations account for 13,000 N.J. jobs, including but not limited to trainers, farm hands, veterinarians, suppliers of feed, equipment, transportation, race track workers and vendors, real estate, construction, agri-businesses and more. About 42,000 horses reside here; roughly 12,500 are in the racing industry. Over 176,000 acres of land support 72 equine facilities statewide - acreage that could be lost to development if we do not step up and support keeping the horse industry alive and thriving here. Additionally, popular equine-oriented youth groups, polo, competitions and therapeutic riding programs are widely praised and enhance our quality of life, providing immeasurable recreational, social and economic benefits.

“The equine industry affects every resident of New Jersey and enhances preservation of farmland,” Dr. Malinowski said at an equine industry symposium in 2010. “New Jersey has less than one million open acres left. The state stands to lose over 50,000 acres if racing isn’t viable. We need a long-term vision for sustainability of horse racing.” From 1983 – 96, New Jersey lost 40,000 acres of open space, primarily due to the demise of race-horse breeding farms.

These facts are a major reason that as a freeholder, I worked with respected, knowledgeable stalwarts of the industry to re-form Monmouth County’s Save the Horse Committee in 2010. We have been working hard with other like-minded organizations and government agencies since to save the industry, but on too many fronts, we are literally losing ground. Corporations are already watching agricultural land such as our large horse farms and training facilities, waiting for them to become available.

Driving Our Horse Industry Away

Two years ago, we had a chance to take a major step to ensure the future viability and integrity of the equine industry here in New Jersey.  Proponents wanted the state’s race tracks to become racinos with video slot machines and more, but Governor Chris Christie opposed it, while granting massive funding to Atlantic City. Why couldn’t some of those funds be used to support our equine industry so both could thrive hand in hand? Racing and racinos do not adversely affect casino revenue. They can and will bolster each other to the benefit of all, including the taxpayer.

During a single year, Pennsylvania’s tax revenue related to gaming went up, while New Jersey’s went down. During the same time period, jobs related to racing in PA went up 55.1%, while they went down 5.7% in the Garden State. The shortened number of race days at the Meadowlands and Monmouth Park is having a devastating effect on New Jersey-bred horses and the ability for those involved to make a living wage. The exodus of horse owners, farmers and workers in related industries to places like Delaware, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Virginia has already begun.

There is legislation currently working its way through Trenton that would increase the usage of Atlantic City casino profits to enhance education and other social services. The horse industry should be able to share in that. Because there is no allocation for the equine industry, when the measure came before the New Jersey Association of Counties, (NJAC), of which I am a member, I voted against it. The NJAC representative from Bergen County, home of the Meadowlands, was the only other member to vote with me. The Meadowlands, in the midst of a major metropolitan area, is the perfect spot to create an international-level racing and gambling mecca that would attract people from all over. We’re not doing it. New York will, and they will reap the wide-ranging economic benefits. I, and many others, are dismayed by the lack of support Governor Christie has demonstrated for our culturally and economically important equine industry.

Please Attend Races & Monmouth County’s First Open Space Pace!

There are things all of us can do to help save the horse in New Jersey. First, support racing by spending an exciting day at our unique racetracks. The excitement of harness racing at Freehold Raceway, the pleasant country, family-oriented ambiance of Monmouth Park and the excitement of the Meadowlands are waiting to provide you with a memorable, fun day. Every dollar you spend in those and similar venues counts. Attend a fascinating, heart-pounding polo match! We have them at Bucks Mill Park in Colts Neck, right in your backyard!

An exciting new event now being planned that families and individuals can participate in and enjoy that will celebrate and support all things equine – the first Monmouth County Open Space Pace. Mark your calendar for Saturday, September 29, when a colorful parade of regal horses will leave the Hall of Records, Main Street, (Route 537), in Freehold on their way to Freehold Raceway, where the grounds will be transformed into an equine festival with a variety of fun, entertaining and informative activities.

Area horsemen and women have joined with county government, the Rutgers Extension Service, Freehold officials and the county’s Save the Horse Committee to create this major event we hope will be repeated year after year. Our goal is to attract new fans for the industry and increase awareness of and participation in a wide range of equine activities. Other goals include raising money to donate to the New Jersey Sire Stakes to enhance the quality of racing, instrumental in maintaining open space in New Jersey. Organizers want to educate the public about horse ownership, training, the benefits of horse farms, and how to handicap and bet on races.

A horse show, concert, competitions, giveaways and fireworks are all scheduled to be part of the fun. An event journal is currently being created. We need more businesses, organizations and individuals to get involved today! Corporate sponsors, volunteers, and contributions are actively being sought. Organizers include Millstone Mayor Nancy Grbelja, a well-known horsewoman and Chairperson of the county’s Save the Horse Committee and Rutgers’ Dr. Karyn Malinowski.

To learn more and get involved, please visit the event website, www.openspacepace.org, then contact Brett Taft at Btaft@umh.com, or call 908-839-6564. Please join me and the entire New Jersey equine industry in supporting and preserving our precious equine heritage so we can enjoy it and all it affords for generations to come!

Lillian G. Burry
Monmouth County Freeholder

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