About 50 people stood in the parking lot of The Atlantic Riding Center for Health facility in Egg Harbor Township, hoping to speak with the board members Thursday afternoon, but they were met by police.
ARCH is a therapeutic horseback riding program for disabled people, and the Asbury Avenue facility is up for sale.
Concerned riders, volunteers and parents of riders were under the impression the board planned to meet at the facility Thursday afternoon.
Judith and Charles “Skip” Weiner, of Margate, sent a letter requesting 15 minutes to speak with the board about keeping the program running.
“We wanted to discuss the possibility of us taking over the riding center,” Charles Weiner said. “There’s no reason to close it down.”
He said there are individuals and organizations that are willing to pool money and buy the facility.
“If they feel they can’t run it and handle the bills, we know we can do it,” he said. “My wife and I have been involved with this from Day 1. We raised the money to buy this and build this. There’s no reason why we couldn’t keep running it.”
At around 5:45 p.m., an Egg Harbor Township police officer showed up. He went inside the facility trying to find the person who had called in the complaint. He found no one and the officer left without asking anyone to leave.
Judith Weiner added the names and contact information of all those present to a list. She said they plan to regroup before deciding what to do next.
Many of the riders have already switched to Rolling Seas Farm, a riding center directly next to the ARCH facility that has a therapeutic program called HEARTS.
Heather Foster said her daughter Leah has been coming to ARCH every Thursday for three years. She said if ARCH closes, they will move next door. Leah is on the autism spectrum, and riding is a big part of her life.
“Her best friend, she sees her every Thursday,” Heather Foster said. “She lives in Cape May and we live in Galloway. Every week they get to have something they enjoy.”
Foster said she came to the meeting to find out what is happening with ARCH.
“I feel like we were betrayed,” she said. “And our children. How do we explain to someone that doesn’t understand transition? How are we prepared for that when the rug was pulled out from under us?”
Diane Macknis, of Yardley, Pa., said her son John has been coming to ARCH for years.
“I just hate to see it close.” she said. “We traveled two hours every week. I just don’t understand why these people can’t even face us.
She said that she just found out the facility is up for sale.
“When one of the coaches called me and said come to the meeting, well here we are in the parking lot. I think it’s rude,” she said. “We’re adults. We are not handicap people. We have handicap children and adults, but we should be faced like adults and talked to like adults. ... We deserve that much.”
Calls to several ARCH board members were not returned.
Contact David Simpson: