- Published: Friday, 08 April 2016 17:16
Live on the backstretch at Laurel Park or Pimlico and want to go shopping? Need a ride to the grocery story, the doctor’s office or Social Security?
All backstretch workers have to do is sign up for the new shuttle service being provided through a partnership between Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association and Maryland Jockey Club.
A couple months ago, a shuttle service was just a dream. But when workers suggested at one of the MTHA’s new monthly open forums that a transportation service would be much appreciated, the MTHA staff began to make plans.
In early April, the shuttle went into operation with six backstretch employees taking advantage of a trip to Walmart, a pharmacy and for lunch. Upcoming trips are planned to the Inner Harbor, Arundel Mills, a Laundromat and “anywhere else” employees want to go on the twice-a-week shuttle.
“Everyone is super excited about it,” says David Richardson, the MTHA’s Executive Director. “People are so happy people are taking an interest in the backstretch. We’re really trying our best to restore a sense of community again among horsemen.”
It is the latest step in that direction, having been preceded by the establishment of private mailboxes, a rebuilt recreation hall and the new Horsemen’s Health System.
Dan Mangum, the MTHA’s Recreation Program’s administrator, has taken on the job of driving the 10-seat van the MTHA purchased at the end of last year. The van was being used to transport workers to the Social Security Administration and for other special circumstances.
But now, Mangum will take backstretch workers on trips on a regular basis twice a week.
He and MTHA Racetrack Director Diana Pinones say workers who need rides can sign up at the Laurel Park kitchen or by calling Mangum at 410-802-5798 or Pinones at the MTHA’s main number, 410-902-6844.
“We have some specific destinations planned,” Mangum says. “But all anyone has to do is indicate when they sign up that they need to go to a doctor’s office or MVA or Social Security, or wherever they might need and we will get them there.
“It’s a great thing the MTHA is doing. We are going where they want to go.” Mangum, 68, has worked at the track since 1992 and been involved the recreation program since 1998. The program organizes golf tournaments, bowling, basketball, softball and soccer leagues and sees the van trips as an opportunity for backstretch workers, who are often in need of transportation, to do more than just get their everyday living chores handled more easily.
He says he hopes to get the van on the road possibly as early as 11 a.m. and no later than noon, and have everyone back by 3 p.m. or 4 p.m.
“We are in the early stages, but we’re hoping to do a lot of things,” Mangum says. “It’s not just for food and pharmacy visits. We want them to have fun, too. “We hope to have movie days, where people can go to the movies at the Laurel Town Center or Arundel Mills. We have a Bowie Baysox game on the schedule.
“I think it is a great convenience for them and as word spreads, I think this van is going to be really popular.”
And, he adds, workers are already expressing their appreciation.
“A lot of people just don’t have any [motorized] transportation and they can’t do everything on a bike,” he says.
Pick up for the service is at the main stable gate at Laurel Park. Mangum says the service will also be expanded to Pimlico Race Course.