Facilities for our equestrian community have been threatened in recent weeks.
First, the surprising proposal came for the conversion of the TRAC complex in Pasco to a water park.
Horse owners and riders were quick to point out that when TRAC -- Trade Recreation Agricultural Center -- was built with public money, horse events were the facility's centerpiece.
Then another blow hit the horse community when Benton County commissioners terminated the county's lease with the Sun Downs Training Center at the fairgrounds.
That organization provided a reasonably priced home for horse owners to train and board their horses, for barrel racing events and other equine happenings.
While it's not completely clear why the lease was terminated, the county says it had several reasons to end its dealings with Sun Downs Training Center, including overdue lease payments.
The operator was ordered off the fairgrounds and events he operated ceased.
County officials said they will continue to make the fairgrounds available for equestrian events. But, in the past, county requirements for lease rates and insurance proved too costly for most events.
For a successful horse facility to operate at the fairgrounds, the county would likely need to find a private contractor willing to take on the liability and management of horse events, similar to the Sun Downs Training Center.
Combined, these recent events leave the long-term future for horse events in the Tri-Cities somewhat murky, at least until some further decisions are made by local governments and public facilities districts.
The Pasco Public Facilities District has asked the Tri-Cities Regional Public Facilities District for help with the $35 million it predicts would be needed to turn TRAC into a water park. It's one of four projects being considered by the regional PFD, and it appears to be the front-runner.
Whichever project is chosen, it will be up to the voters to approve a 0.1 percent tax increase to pay for it.
Franklin County and Pasco currently absorb the $400,000 annual shortfall at TRAC. But that agreement ends in 2014, and both sides have indicated they'd like to discontinue that arrangement.
If the TRAC facility is destined to become a water park, Franklin County commissioners would want to transfer their ownership of the facility to the city and be compensated for it.
And that's where a bit of bright news came for horse owners. Franklin County commissioners say they understand the need for a facility for agricultural and equine events. And they'd take the money they would get from giving up TRAC to potentially build a new equestrian center north of the city along Highway 395.
Obviously, determining the future use of TRAC and the potential for a new facility will be years in the making. What is clear is that the horse community is active and vocal. And they spend money in our community.
It only takes a drive by TRAC on a weekend with a barrel race or team roping competition to see the popularity of those events, not to mention the dollars (check out some of those horse trailers) that horse lovers invest in their sport.
Operation of public facilities like coliseums and fairgrounds by governments almost always require supplemental funding to cover shortfalls. Requirements and restrictions on how governments do business makes it a challenge to turn a profit when operating these types of facilities.
Public facilities are a community asset, enhancing our quality of life and attracting visitors, but they are also a drain on county finances and resources. Private management is usually the only viable answer.
As commissioners, city councils and facilities districts move forward with their decisions in the weeks months ahead, they'll benefit the entire community by finding ways to accommodate horse events on both sides of the river.