OCEAN CITY – Last week the Mayor and City Council pushed forward in allowing horseback riding on the beach with a 6-1 vote, but this week opinions changed, resulting in a 4-3 vote to pass the ordinance in first reading, with council members Doug Cymek, Mary Knight and Lloyd Martin in opposition.
“I really didn’t want this to be the next 4-3 vote,” Council President Jim Hall said. “I am willing to try this for 90 days … they are pretty to see and when you go to other resorts you do see other folks riding and splashing in the water, and for that reason I think it is worth a try. If it doesn’t work out or if we have problems with it, we just stop it.”
Knight expressed many public concerns over the “waste” horses will leave behind and didn’t want to mix the image with the perception of Ocean City.
“I still believe the risk is not worth the reward,” she said.
Councilman Brent Ashley, who brought the idea forward a few months back, argued “horse poop” should not be a concern. He read a statement from the Environmental Protection Agency that said, “Horse manure is a solid waste excluded from federal regulation because it neither contains significant amounts of listed hazardous components, nor exhibits hazardous properties.”
Ashley added that the horses will ride from the water to the high tide line so if manure is not picked up it will be washed out into the ocean, which is not harmful because horse manure is organic and bio-degradable.
“There is no danger with the horse manure,” he said. “We don’t always want to be the city of ‘no ’… this is done all over the world and I don’t see what the big problem is. Try it and if doesn’t work than that is it.”
Martin said that Ashley “hit it on the head” by stating 40 percent of dog owners do not pick up after their pets.
“Basically you are going to have the same amount of people riding horses that aren’t going to be picking up their horse poop … and that is more litter you are going to have on your beach,” he said. “It is more of a negative than it is a positive.”
Doug Cymek said that his vote has flipped following some investigation.
“If you read all of the comments from our staff and police department, they are all advising us against doing this,” he said.
Cymek added that Wildwood, N.J allows horseback riding to be done on “Five Mile Beach” which is similar to Assateague Island where the beach is separated by a 200-foot wide buffer. Also, the Wildwood assistant director of public works has advised that horseback riding in Ocean City would not work and will be a danger to beach goers.
“Horses that are not used to being around water jump and toss their riders when a wave breaks, so I understand the good you are trying to do, but I really feel here that the cost is going too far outweigh any benefit,” he said.
Council members Margaret Pillas and Joe Hall didn’t see anything wrong with giving it a try.
“I don’t see it being that many horses to begin with and as far as riders are concerned, if you own a horse and ride a horse you should certainly know how to ride under these circumstances,” Pillas said.
Joe Hall added that he thought the minority of the council were “looking for problems.”
“I think it is worth the risk,” he said. “If we find out in the spring we have issues, we can discontinue it as quick as we started it.”
The lengthy ordinance lists the regulations placed on horseback riding on the beach that will be allowed from Nov. 1 of each year through March 30 of the next year, 6 a.m. through 5 p.m.
The designated area for riding horses begins at the northernmost extension of 27th Street and extending south to the south end jetty. Riding in the dune area is prohibited and all riders must ride in the general vicinity of the hard sand closest to the water’s edge.
Any sporting activities such as horse racing, polo or other sporting activities involving horses are also prohibited, including galloping. The only activity permitted while horseback riding on the beach is a leisurely ride consisting of walking or pacing of the horses.
A permit will be required for riding horses on the beach. The cost of the permit is $50 per horse and can be purchased at the City Clerk’s Office and displayed in the front windshield of the vehicle used for towing the horses. The permit also allows two riders per permit or per horse and horse trailers may only be parked at the beach parking lot.
There is not a limit of permits to be sold but there is a limit of no more than 12 horses on the beach at one time. Riding sessions can be scheduled three days in advance by contacting the City Clerk’s Office.
The permit holder is responsible for cleaning any manure, hay or other debris caused by riding horses on the beach, parking lot or entrance to beach. The manure must be removed and disposed of at the stable or farm in which the horse came. Violating this regulation will result in a hearing before the city manager at which point a permit can be revoked and refused the issuance of permit in the future.
Other regulations include any child under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult at all times while riding on the beach, no dogs are permitted to accompany riders while on the beach, and when riders come upon other individuals on the beach it is the responsibility of the horse rider to yield and ride around them.