Charity wants extreme equestrian park makeover

A charitable foundation linked to Ottawa billionaire Terry Matthews has entered its proposal to take over the Nepean National Equestrian Park just as Ottawa city council voted to end its 25-year lease of the space.

Wesley Clover Foundation bids to throw $30M at equestrian park, rename space

A charity tied to an Ottawa billionaire has proposed a $30-million makeover for the Nepean National Equestrian Park, just as the city council voted to end the municipality's lease of the park.

City councillors decided Wednesday to end the lease after 25 years and halt a therapeutic riding program by the end of October. As part of the deal, the city has to sell 27 of 32 horses at the park.

The proposal would have the Wesley Clover Foundation take over the park as a not-for-profit, charitable venture and includes a bid to also take over the neighbouring Ottawa Municipal Campground. The foundation has ties with the family of local high-tech tycoon Terry Matthews.

The park would be renamed Greenbelt Stables, if the idea comes to fruition, featuring a covered show ring and a renovated riding school named after Canada's most famous show jumper, Ian Millar.

The 65-year-old Millar, from Perth, Ont., will set a world record in London when he competes in his 10th Olympic Games. He could also be named the flag bearer Thursday.

The charity's proposal also includes more riding trails, sports fields and a permanent indoor home for the Royal Swans. A therapeutic riding program would also exist for disabled children with a separate trail riding component.

The foundation wants a 25-year-lease with options to renew it. The National Capital Commission, which owns the property, has not confirmed it received the bid but said its wishes are to keep the area an equestrian park.