John Henline -
Highland Embraces Its Horse Community Heritage
by Karen Briggs
In the 21st century, most horse people are grateful just to have their presence tolerated on public trails and in
suburban areas. But in Highland Township, Michigan, horses aren't just tolerated they're
Thanks to an initiative from the Highland Equestrian Conservancy, Highland Township is
redefining itself as Michigan's First Designated Horse Community. It's a natural fit for this bedroom community of
Detroit, population 21,000, where a 5900 acre state park, the Highland Recreation Area (which includes overnight
camping facilities for horse people and 12 miles of equestrian trails), makes up fully one-quarter of the township,
and where high school varsity equestrian teams got their start, at the nearby Milford High School. Rolling hills,
abundant green spaces, lakes and wetlands make Highland Township the jewel of Oakland County, and a magnet for
horse people and horse-based businesses. What better way to capitalize on its horse heritage than to welcome
riders, drivers, and horse lovers of all descriptions with open arms?
Founded in 2002, the Highland Equestrian Conservancy has spear headed an effort to create beneficial partnerships
with 4H, Pony Club, other local land conservancies, the Michigan Horse Council, the township Downtown Development
Authority (DDA), and other organizations, to serve a dual purpose: to preserve spaces to ride for the owners of the
township's 775 horses, and to help revitalize Highland's business profile and prosperity in the process.
Among the proposals for Michigan's Designated Equestrian Community: a horse-friendly downtown,
the first of its kind among the National Trust's Main Street Revitalization projects nationwide. With the Highland
Recreation Area's riding trails immediately adjacent to downtown Highland Station, businesses plan to install
hitching posts, watering troughs, and restrooms to make it possible for equestrians to leave the park and come
right downtown for a pleasant lunch and a bit of shopping. There are also plans for a central stable and paddocks
for riders who'd like to stay for longer periods.
"One of the challenges we have with making the town horse-friendly is that the original downtown is south of
Highway 59, while the newer part is north of the highway. We're doing feasibility studies now on the best way to
provide an equestrian-accessible crossing, which will be either a tunnel or a bridge."
Visit community web site: Equestrian Conservancy