DEDICATED volunteers are appealing for help to raise £15,000 to save their ‘jewel in Oldham’s crown’ – Friezland Arena and Community Park.
The site is in urgent need of repairs, including replacing fencing and relevelling the base of the riding arena, which is about 30 years old, and installing drainage.
Friezland User Group (FUG), which maintains the Oldham Council owned site off Manchester Road, has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise the funds needed.
Sport England and Crowdfunder have teamed up to make £2.5million available to help the sports and physical activities sector through the ongoing Covid crisis.
So if FUG can meet the criteria required, including raising funds by October 21, their total will be matched funded up to 50 per cent.
Samantha Bentley, chair of FUG, explained: “The site is owned by Oldham Council but in 2014 any funding for maintenance was removed due to government cuts.
“Since then FUG has had a service-level agreement and taken over the responsibility of the running and maintenance of the arena and site, and the council does a bit.
“The arena base is becoming unfit for purpose and will become a safety hazard resulting in closure if the surface is not replaced.
“Fencing to the arena, park and picnic areas is also in desperate need of replacing. All monies raised will go to immediate repairs so we can keep the site open to public use.
“We have repaired the arena surface a number of times. We did it about four years ago to buy us some more time but now the base needs relevelling and drains putting down.
“The surface will be scooped off and put back so we will not waste anything.
“I do not want to think what will happen if we couldn’t raise the money. It is a green space for the whole community to use, a jewel in Oldham’s crown.
“We are working behind the scenes looking for other funding but it is hard to come by. And because of Covid, we’ve not been able to have any fundraisers.”
The site was closed for some time during the first lockdown last year in line with council and government advice.
FUG – which is made up of Saddleworth and District Pony Club, Oldham and District Riding Club, West Pennine Bridleways Association, and Greenfield and Grasscroft Residents Association (GGRA) – worked with the council to put in place a risk assessment.
That enabled them to re-open safely, with Covid protocols still in place, and welcome back riders right through from grassroots to professionals.It is also a popular spot with walkers, dog owners and families who enjoy using the green space and picnic tables.
The arena, which is free of charge to use by the public, is also host to training, dressage and events, including the annual Horseman’s Carol Service for families and all animals.
Samantha added: “A lot of people do not know we are here or what it is about but we want to save this gem.
“As far as I am aware, there is nothing else in the country that is in use like this, it’s very unique.”
To support FUG with their fundraising, visit: www.crowdfunder.co.uk/friezland-arena-and-community-park
Or you can sign up to be Friend of Friezland for a small annual donation which helps to cover cost of maintenance (£10 for adults, £5 for children, £15 for families). For more information, contact them on Facebook: Friezland Usergroup