As I sit here preparing the first NEECA newsletter of the new year, I find it hard to believe that it IS a new year. 2023 seemed to go by in the blink of an eye. Who is it that said the older you get, the faster the time speeds by? I didn't understand that in my 20's but I sure do now. This growing awareness of how truly fleeting time is brings with it a deep appreciation of "what is", "what has been", and "what could be".
In turn, that got me thinking about NEECA a bit. It seems like only yesterday (but it was1999) that I read a small blurb in the Athol Daily News about a meeting at the Athol Town Hall to discuss plans for an equestrian park in the Town of Athol. Being a life-long horse fanatic, and current owner of two aforementioned critters, my interest was piqued, and I made sure to put that meeting date right in my calendar so I wouldn't miss it. Little did I realize at the time that decision would lead me to a lifelong involvement in something as unique and special as the New England Equestrian Center of Athol.
At that first meeting Elwin Bacon, NEECA's "founding father" for sure, discussed plans for the development of a multi-discipline, municipal equestrian park on approximately 250 acres of land recently purchased on New Sherborn Road in Athol with a grant from the state. At the time, all we had was the property, a vision, and some dedicated people who believed in "what could be". Those initial 20 members or so have now grown to 250; that property that was once raw land now has a 240' x 100' main arena, a warm-up arena, round pen, confidence course, driving area, electricity, a food booth, a new well, and miles of trails; and "what could be" has turned into "what is".
Looking back, I find it difficult to believe it has been nearly 25 years since I attended that first meeting. But once I get over the shock that a quarter of a century has gone by, I am able to appreciate what NEECA is today compared to where we started those many years ago. And more importantly, why.
The why is kind of the key thing here. NEECA is what it is today because of the dedication, talent and determination of a whole bunch of people over a whole lot of years who believed in this dream. While we received a few grants to help with specific projects, most of NEECA's progress and development over the years has been due to the efforts of hundreds of generous people who have donated literally thousands and thousands of hours to turn NEECA into what it is today because they believed in "what could be".
While the NEECA horse park is pretty special in its own right, we need to acknowledge the amazing people that NEECA has brought together in pursuit of this dream. This organization has become much more than a place, it is a community of dedicated, generous, caring horse lovers who are quick to support each other when needed. On a personal note, I just hate to think about all the wonderful people that I wouldn't have in my life if it wasn't for NEECA. More than a few of my horse friends from other areas have commented on how lucky I am to have something like NEECA where I live, referring to both the actual park and our "community". A fact that I am keenly aware of ..every...single...day.
So as we embark upon yet another trip around the sun, I am grateful for "what is", mindful of "what has been", and eagerly anticipating "what WILL be". I wish the same for all of you in 2024, and the years ahead, in the hopes that the Best Is Still Yet To Come.
President, NEECA Board of Directors
"Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success." Henry Ford