Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Work Day at Oak Mountain

       As an avid horse person, I belong to several equine organizations, including a saddle club (one that does trail rides, not shows) and a competitive trail club. Last winter I added the Central Alabama Chapter of Back Country Horsemen of America (BCHA) to my list.

Chad Bowman, Kathy Jones & John Sims
 refill the trenches.
At the national level, BCHA is dedicated to keeping America’s horse trail system open and in good working order.  Our most current major project is fighting to prevent the wholesale selling and giving away of our public lands, something Congress is trying to do with its proposed American Land Act (H.R. 1931) introduced last April. The latter, if passed, will authorize the sale of 8 percent of these lands each year from 2016 to 2021 to an ”eligible entity": (1) a U.S. citizen, or (2) a corporation or partnership created or organized in or under the laws of the United States. The money would go to the Highway Trust Fund.

Legislators say the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management cannot take care of our federal lands, so let’s sell or give way 100 billion acres to the highest bidder, whether it’s a billionaire, a state or even a foreign country. These same legislators fail to mention that they are the ones responsible for strangling the budgets of our federal land agencies.

All over the country, the various chapters of BCHA adopt trails to maintain. The Central Alabama Chapter looks after the horse trails at Oak Mountain State Park (OMSP),  meaning we clear fallen trees, remove rocks, put in bridges and whatever else needs to be done to keep the trails safe and comfortable for horses to walk on. In addition, we have a monthly business meeting at OMSP, hold benefit rides to raise money for various equestrian projects at the park, and have fun camping and trail riding together.

Kathy, Brett Higdon, John & Chad.
Not pictured are Mike Jones and
trench diggers Keith & Beverly Taylor.
Several folks put in many hours of volunteer work each month. Last year, club members built a 14-stall barn at the equestrian campgrounds. Some of the materials came from the park, like the panels of an old round pen that we took down and re-used between the stalls. We bought the gates and the boards for the front and back of each stall, and someone donated the poles to which the panels are attached. A $25,000 ADECA grant will pay for the materials for our next big project, which is to put a roof over the stalls.

Last Friday (December 11) was the first opportunity I’ve had to actually pitch in and do some hands-on work with this organization. Our chapter paid for the materials to install water lines to the barn. Several club members had already dug the trenches, installed and connected the pipes and put in the three faucets. We now have a faucet at each end of the barn and one at the wash pit, which means we will no longer have to connect two or three hoses from one of our camp sites and string them across the camp road to the barn to wash and water our horses.

All that remained to be done last week was to cover the pipes with dirt. So I drove 45 minutes to do 45 minutes of work, but hey, at least I was willing. It was a thrill to turn on the faucets and see that water come out. 

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