The popular pony rides at Enchanted Forest Elaine Gordon Park are closer to a comeback after North Miami’s City Council voted for a company to run the park’s stables.
The council voted Tuesday to award the contract to M&M Stables South based on city staff’s recommendation. Their approval came with a condition that they can modify the amount of liability insurance in the contract. Residents and council members worried that $1 million to cover general liability might not be sufficient.
Melissa McGoey, the owner of M&M Stables, said riders will have to sign waivers in addition to the insurance in the contract and noted that Florida law provides some protection for “equine professionals.” She said that she hopes to run the stables in an organized way with more involvement from the city and a variety
“We’ll have things for the kids, for adults, for birthday parties and try to cover all aspects,” McGoey said.
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The new company will take over nearly a year after the longtime owner of the Rock-N-Ranch, Shirley Chance, lost her city lease after the city said she didn’t comply with code requirements at the park, 1725 NE 135th St. M&M Stables South scored higher than another responsive bidder, The Family Ranch.
Enchanted Stables, another group that bid for the contract was considered an unresponsive bidder during the most recent bid because it didn’t attend a mandatory meeting. The group was a part of the process last summer before the bid was removed and then reissued in December.
Former mayor and attorney Frank Wolland asked the City Council to reconsider his group’s application and said he had doubts about the city’s process.
“I’ve got a very bad feeling in my stomach about the way they’ve done it,” Wolland said.
Salome Billon, 16, a former volunteer at the stables who works with The Family Ranch group, said they worked within the bid process and even though the city’s evaluation committee didn’t eventually recommend them they fit the guidelines.
“We were persistent and we’re not crying about what we didn’t score, we just want the ranch open,” Billon said.
Xelene Martinez, another volunteer who worked with Chance and the Family Ranch, said she was relieved to hear the City Council’s decision.
“I know Melissa [McGoey] personally and I have a lot of faith in her,” Martinez said. “I’m glad they came to a decision and I hope the park will be open soon.”
The city will receive $7,500 annually from M&M Stables South and 10 percent of the vendor’s monthly sales revenue. Staff said they hope to have the stables open to the public again soon, but did not specify a time frame.