On the year of its 70th anniversary, the Snoqualmie Valley Riding Club is closing its doors and looking for another non-profit organization to donate its property to after a tough few years of declining membership and funding.
The non-profit club, which was established in 1947, is located on a seven-acre property at 13121 415th Way SE, North Bend, and features a clubhouse and arena for members and non-members to ride their horses. The riding club was started to give horse riders a place in the Valley for horseback riding and education events.
After the economic downturn in 2007 and 2008, the club went from 50 to 10 members, according to the immediate past president Linzie Walker. When Walker joined in 2012 there were even fewer members.
In 2016, Walker and vice president Kasaundra McNeilly stepped down from their roles and were replaced by Dianna Wirt and Lara Button. Button, the current VP, said that despite their best efforts, the club wasn’t seeing any growth from the events and activities they held.
“We took it over from the previous president and VP,” she said. “It’s been such a long-standing club, this year is its 70th anniversary and we didn’t want to see it dissolve, but it was not getting used.”
When Wirt and Button assumed their roles on the board, they began the process to have the club’s lapsed non-profit status reinstated. They hoped the club would be eligible for funding programs but, according to Button, Washington does not count the riding club as an agricultural use and so they were not able to get tax exemptions.
Button also said they went after grants like King County’s “Barn Again” program but were not chosen to receive any of those funds.
Wirt, Button and the rest of the board had planned events throughout 2017, but after several events were rained out and the need to pay property taxes and other bills stacked up, the balance of a sustainable organization was not possible.
“All the money is going out, property tax, bills, and unfortunately our checks and balances are not there,” Button said. “We put out word that we needed more community support and we literally had nobody respond.”
The board decided to close at their final board meeting in July and begin the hunt for another non-profit to take the property.
“With that decision being made, we were trying to think of alternate situations, like handing the property over to King County,” Button said. “We looked into dissolving a 501(c)3, if you don’t give back to the county or state, it would have to be gifted to a like-minded 501(c)3. So we were trying to brainstorm and think of other groups that would benefit from it or be interested… I’m just really hoping that someone steps us and says ‘we would really benefit from that.’ I really don’t want to see homes going up on the property.”
Because the club is behind on its property taxes, a non-profit looking to take the property would need to take on the outstanding fees as well. If not paid within three years, the property will revert back to the county, Button explained.
“Once all of our debts are paid — unpaid prop taxes utility bills, loans — after that is done, then that portion could be gifted to the non-profits, as long as there isn’t anything outstanding,” she said.
The club is looking to hear from any interested groups by Tuesday, Oct. 31. Applicants can send a letter and proof of 501(c)3 status by the end of October to P.O. Box 33, North Bend, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The board will review applicants and vote in November.