By Tony Farina
The vision to create a horse therapy sanctuary for mentally challenged adults, children with special needs, and wounded warriors at the historic stables of Knox Farm State Park is gaining momentum even at this early stage, and that was evident by the strong turnout last Sunday for an exhibition polo match at Knox Field adjacent to the park.
The man behind the sanctuary dream is John Mead Hatcher, president and director of the Stables at Knox, Inc., and he was everywhere on Sunday, greeting tailgaters and many VIP guests and talking–in addition to polo– about his efforts to form a coalition dedicated to creating a “successful and sustainable world-class operation that will provide great outcomes and enhance the lives of families, children and American heroes throughout Western New York for generations to come.”
The sanctuary dream was given life recently when the state rejected the only proposal it received for the development and enhancement of the stable barns, one that would have opened a brewery at the facility, a plan that met with opposition from a group called Concerned Citizens. The state is now “reassessing and reevaluating” the needs for the park but no timetable has been set for the next step in the process.
Hatcher sees the state’s reassessment as an opportunity and is hoping he will have a proposal ready in a few months that will eventually win state approval and give the legendary stables a chance to become a world-famous horse sanctuary modeled, in part, on the Misty Meadows Farm special needs sanctuary outside Charlotte, N. C., developed 20 years ago by Harry Swimmer who will be visiting with Hatcher at Knox Stables in the near future.
There were many familiar faces on hand for the polo match on Sunday, including Joyce Nixon and her husband, former Buffalo Bills player Jeff Nixon, who are strongly supportive of Hatcher’s sanctuary vision for the stables that are still standing impressively despite years of inactivity, and businesswoman Lidia Cuozo, owner of Sunbelt Business Brokers.
“The stables could definitely be brought back to life,” said Hatcher as he gave Artvoice a tour of the barns after the polo match featuring teams from the Toronto area. “It is an exciting opportunity,” said Hatcher, as he moved from the many stalls to the living quarters above which housed the stable staff which have already received some improvements courtesy of the state.
The sanctuary vision is no doubt an ambitious effort but one that certainly merits attention given the still lush grounds of the park, the former country estate of the Knox family. If Hatcher’s dream comes true, it could welcome visitors from around the world seeking the kind of animal therapy that has worked wonders in places like Misty Meadows.
For more information on the polo match and what’s going on at Knox, you can visit http://www.stablesatknox.org/.