Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ocean City considering allowing winter riding on the beach

From OCEAN CITY -- An ordinance that would allow equestrians to bring their horses to Ocean City's beach has lost some Town Council support, but it will move to a second reading in February.

"I really didn't want this to be the next 4-3 vote," said Council President Jim Hall, just before a 4-3 vote was handed in by the council. Hall, Joe Hall, Brent Ashley and Margaret Pillas voted in favor of moving toward allowing horseback riding on beaches from Nov. 1-March 30, while Lloyd Martin, Mary Knight and Doug Cymek dissented.

Jim Hall said he was willing to try horseback riding for 90 days, and that if there were issues with it, the council could do away with it, a sentiment Joe Hall shared.

"It's a new idea, kind of a novel idea, and I think it's worth a try," Jim Hall said.

If passed, riders could purchase a $50-per-horse permit to ride as often as they'd like from 6 a.m.-7 p.m. during the resort's offseason. Councilman Brent Ashley first brought the idea to the council months ago as a way to boost tourism during a season when the town is not highly occupied -- especially its beaches.

Council voted 6-1 at a recent work session to move forward with the ordinance; Martin was the only no-vote at that time, he said he felt it'd be difficult to regulate the horses. He reiterated that Monday, saying he doesn't think the town could get every equestrian to be responsible for disposing of their horse's excrement.

If a rider was caught not cleaning up after his or her horse, they would be hit with a $500 fine for a municipal infraction, according to City Solicitor Guy Ayres, who drew up the ordinance.

Ashley read from an Environmental Protection Agency report that says horse manure is a solid waste excluded from regulation because it "neither contains significant amounts of listed hazardous components, nor exhibits hazardous properties."

Knight said she is more worried about the perception people will have that horse manure is on the resort's beaches, whether it can be harmful to health or not. She's had an outpouring of people tell her they did not want manure on the beaches, she said.

"Perception -- and I hate this phrase -- is reality," Knight said.

Cymek told Ashley he understood the good he was trying to do by expanding tourism, but that he thinks the cost of allowing horseback riding would outweigh the benefit.

Ashley said he thinks people are looking for problems to shoot down ideas.

"We don't always have to be a 'city of no,' " he said. He said also that if equestrians stick to the waterline, the horse manure will be washed to sea with the tide.

410-213-9442, ext. 14

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