After nearly 40 years of bringing memories and smiles to North Miami families through pony rides, the Rock-N-Ranch is closed while the city seeks new management.
Since 1976, the ranch was under the ownership of Shirley Chance and she managed the park, its horses and the volunteers that kept things in order.
“After 40 years the city decided to throw me out along with the ponies and everything else,” said Chance, 81.
An inspection of the site in March by the city’s code compliance division, a veterinarian and a representative from the South Florida Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, led to a series of recommended changes that Chance needed to make to keep the ranch compliant.
The recommendations made to Chance included making sure that only one horse was being kept in each stall and keeping a log of the cleaning of the stable area.
“A lot of the issues pertained to the functionality of what was taking place there,” said city spokeswoman Pam Solomon. “Parks and Recreation worked with Ms. Chance in the past to make sure things were coming together.”
Shortly after the meeting with the city and the other representatives, Chance was hospitalized with a broken femur. Once city staffers realized she was in the hospital, they waited and delivered word to her in person, according to Solomon, on April 10.
Chance was given 15 days to comply with the recommendations or have her lease agreement with the city terminated. She was unable to comply, and has been finding new homes for the horses and ponies.
“I want to make sure all my ponies have a good home, they certainly have and they certainly will,” Chance said.
North Miami will be putting together a request for proposals for someone to take over the ranch site, at Enchanted Forest Elaine Gordon Park, 1725 NE 135th St., ideally to keep it as a place for pony rides. Solomon said that parks staff and volunteers are working now to act on the recommendations that were presented to Chance.
“A lot of volunteers are offering to help at this time because they do have fond memories of growing up there,” Solomon said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to market it and use it as an attraction to the city.”
The ranch first opened in the 1960s, and most rides cost about $3.
The ranch received about $50,000 from the city a few years ago for improvements in the park and for new fencing. That money came after Chance nearly lost her insurance after several accident claims.
Chance said she doesn’t want to fight the city, but does want to express her gratitude to all of the people who have visited the ranch over the years. And she wants to ensure that her ponies, which are going to other ranches in Davie and Ocala, are taken care of.
“These are ponies I’ve had for 20 years,” Chance said. “They were my only concern.”