~ by Rick Langenberg ~
In a new board shake-up, long-time resident and business owner Merry Jo Larsen has been elected as the president of the Woodland Park Saddle Club.
In addition, her daughter, Marty McKenna, and Wylie Wells, a well-regarded barrel racer, won seats as directors.
With these developments, the Saddle Club, according to Larsen, will be returning to their roots, with more emphasis on events and rodeo galas in Woodland Park and Teller County. More importantly, she wants to make the club more accessible to the public.
“Everyone is going to know what we are doing,” said Larsen. “Nothing will be done in secret.” She encourages interested residents, and those who may want to join, to contact her at The Cowhand store in downtown Woodland Park at 719-687-9688.
Larsen says the club leaders plan to launch a major membership drive and want to evaluate their assets. “We are property rich, but dollar poor,” quipped the Saddle Club president.
The club has mulled plans to develop a major arena facility in Divide, but those pursuits could take a lengthy period to achieve.
So in the meantime, Larsen said the club wants to use its property site in Woodland Park, off Hwy. 24, for a variety of rodeo and equestrian events, and even do more unusual outings, such as a professional and amateur dog show and motor bike rallies. “We plan to build our membership up and raise money through events and fund-raisers,” related Larsen.
Larsen, who also serves as the board chairperson for the Downtown Development Authority, is a big proponent of attracting more people into town through special events and festivals that highlight its western roots. She always, though, has had a special affinity for the Saddle Club.
“It’s like coming home,” said Larsen, in referring to her new role as club president.
“This club is part of our history. It gets in your blood and soul. I learned to ride here,” added Larsen, who has become one of the leading ambassadors for efforts to preserve the town’s rodeo and cowboy heritage. “We need to keep horses in Teller County.”
But she admits the club has to address some key financial issues. “If we run it like a business, we will be successful,” said the president, who advocates a more frugal stance towards big capital expenses.
Even though the club benefitted from the sale of its former Bergstrom Arena property to the Downtown Development Authority more than a decade ago, it currently doesn’t have the funds to develop a multi-use arena in Divide. Infrastructure for this project, though, is currently moving forward.
“We are kind of back to where we started,” said Larsen, in discussing the club’s financial situation. However, their property in Woodland Park could get sold in the future, which would open the door for more revenue.
Besides doing events in Woodland Park, she sees potential for using the property in Divide on a temporary basis for certain events.
In addition, the president cites some grant opportunities and touts the club’s non-profit 501-3 status. For anyone interest is assisting the club with fund-raising, they can be contacted at Woodland Park Saddle Club, P.O. Box 743, Woodland Park 80866.