An equestrian future for Palm City’s Newfield community

An equestrian future for Palm City’s Newfield community

PALM CITY, Fla. (March 23, 2021) — The vast open spaces of Newfield, the new planned community in Martin County, will be a haven for horseback riders, hikers and trail bikers, and a few Palm City neighbors got a preview of this on a trail ride this week.

Alan Hayes, owner of Tours on Horseback, talks with Knight Kiplinger.

Knight Kiplinger, whose family has owned the 3,400 acres of Newfield for 40 years, invited the leadership of the Palm City Farms Trail Association to join him and his Newfield planning team for a leisurely horseback ride along some of the existing trails through pinewoods and expansive pastures.

These lands will remain in their natural state forever and will be gradually opened to riders, hikers and mountain bikers over the coming two years.  Of the 2,400 acres that will remain undeveloped at Newfield, more than 1,000 of the most pristine acres–an area twice the size of Martin County’s largest park, Halpatiokee–will be in a conservancy traversed by trails and dotted with wetlands and lakes.

On a sunny and cool morning, about 20 riders in Western gear set out from the west end of Busch Street, which is the southern boundary of the Newfield property.

They made a three-mile loop through slash pines, cabbage palms and saw palmetto, emerging onto a broad prairie. Off in the distance they could see Tommy Smith’s herd of cattle, wild boars (unwelcome guests at Newfield and in many other Martin County landscapes), and sandhill cranes in a wetland. (No alligators seen on this ride, although they’re out there somewhere.)

The ride was organized by Pete Spyke, an Indian River County citrus grower and the longtime agricultural manager of the Kiplinger property, and Sibyl Dance of Palm City Farms. Charles Rayside, president of the trail association, was on the ride with his wife Karen (treasurer) and several other directors of the association, which maintains a network of historic trails in their neighborhood between Martin Highway and Busch Street.

Sibyl Dance and Tara Jacobs, members of the Palm City Farms Trail Association and advocates for trail access, joined the tour.

“You have one spectacular piece of Old Florida property,” Charles Rayside told Kiplinger after the ride. “Being a fourth-generation Florida resident (A Cracker, as we are known from the cowboy days), I see beauty in woods, like some others just don’t see. We are excited to see your plans develop.”

Several members of the Newfield planning team have extensive experience in equestrian sports and were excited to join the ride. Spyke asked his friend Alan Hayes, who runs the “Tours on Horseback” beach rides on Hutchinson Island in St. Lucie County, to provide mounts for the Newfield folks, and Hayes trailered the horses down to Newfield. All the Palm City folks rode their own steeds.

“For 60 years, my family has supported equestrian sports on our farm in Maryland–Pony Club, fox hunting, steeplechase, three-phase eventing–so I want to create a special place for riding in my new town of Newfield,” Kiplinger said. “I’m not envisioning the fancy equestrian life of high-stakes show jumping and polo in Palm Beach County, but the family-oriented fun of informal riding and youth programs.”

Kiplinger said he looks forward to working with the Palm City Farms Trail Association on creating and maintaining the network of trails and trailheads

Pete Spyke, center, pauses the ride to point out attributes of the property.

for various uses. There will also be trail access points on the far northwest corner of Newfield, adjoining the Stuart West equestrian community and the C-23 Canal. “I’ve had discussions with Stuart West equestrians and hope to organize a trail ride for them in the near future,” he said.

The Master Site Plan for the Newfield mixed-use community has been approved by the Martin County Board of Commissioners, and design of the first phases of infrastructure–extending utilities out Citrus Boulevard to the proposed town center–is nearing completion. The entire developed footprint of the new town will lie mostly north of Citrus, on lands previously developed for citrus groves and vegetable farming, leaving the never-developed lands south and west of Citrus in their present natural state.

Knight leads riders across an open prairie.

Riders travel along a berm created as a dike to retain water for agricultural uses.

The roughly 100 head of cattle living on property gather together in anticipation of being herded as the band of riders approach.

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