2017-10-12 / Neighbors

Old Orchard, Scarborough disagree on horse permit system

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

SCARBOROUGH – In September, the town council tweaked the horses on the beach ordinance to require each rider outfit his or her horse with a containment device to catch feces rather than having it fall onto the beach. The ordinance has always required riders to pick up after their animal, but after receiving complaints about feces left on the beach, the council decided to take the additional step.

With the beach riding season now here – horses are allowed on Pine Point Beach and Old Orchard Beach between Oct. 1 to May 31 so long as the rider has a permit to do so – several horse riders took to the podium at the council meetings in Scarborough and Old Orchard Beach last week to ask the councils to rethink the ordinance change, with many saying they were unaware the change had taken place.

The horse permit system is done through a joint partnership between Scarborough and Old Orchard Beach since Pine Point Beach and Old Orchard Beach is one continuous 7-mile strip of beach.

After hearing from concerned horse owners, the Old Orchard Beach council discussed tabling the matter, before unanimously voting Oct. 3 to “remove without prejudice” the language stipulating a containment device is needed.

Although he voted to do away with the requirement, Old Orchard Beach Council Chairman Joe Thornton said he preferred tabling the item to see what his peers in Scarborough were going to do and worried about the two towns having differentordinances.

“It was enacted years back because there was an issue. People weren’t picking up. I am in full support of removing this with you folks in front of us saying you’ll pick up,” said Old Orchard Beach vice chairman Shawn O’Neill. “I guess we will use it as a cautionary mechanism. If you don’t pick up, we may have no choice but to revisit it at that point.”

The Scarborough council, which took up the topic Oct. 4 is not able to reverse its September decision despite pleas by horseriders. According to the town’s rules and policies ordinance, “when a vote is passed, it shall be in order that only those Council members who voted in the majority can sponsor an item for reconsideration, or in the negative on a tie vote, to move a reconsideration thereof at the same, or the next stated meeting, but not afterwards; and when a motion of reconsideration is decided, that vote shall not be reconsidered.”

Scarborough Town Council Chairman Shawn Babine said while a reconsideration was not possible at the meeting, if a councilor wanted to “bring something forward whether through (the ordinance committee) or on their own, they can do so, so long as the amendment or change is substantive in nature in comparison to what originally was approved.”

Stephanie Keene, of Buxton, said a horse needs to be trained to use a containment device, which is no small task.

“It’s not something you can train your horse with overnight,” Keene, who owns Hearts and Horses Therapeutic Riding Center in Buxton, told councilors Oct. 4.

She said the containment devices, often referred to as Bun Bags, can cost $60 to $200 a piece and can only be ordered online.

Nora Healy, who started riding horses several years ago, said the council’s concern of contamination from horse feces left on the beach impacting water quality is misguided.

“Horse manure is very different than dog manure in terms of a water quality issue. There is bacteria in dog feces that’s not present in horse manure,” said Healy, who, as a member of Freeport’s Shellfish Commission is well versed in water quality issues.

“Under the current ordinance owners are required to clean up after their horses in order to have the privilege of riding on the beach. Regardless of how compostable it may be, what they need to recognize and understand is it is still gross to look at, step in, or have your child or dog get into when enjoying a walk on the beach,” Scarborough councilor Katy Foley wrote in an email to the Courier. “One of the biggest things I came to understand during the dogs issue was that not everyone loves my dog the way I do. I think they are in the same boat so to speak.”

Cindy Flaherty, a lifelong Scarborough resident who runs Flaherty Family Equestrian Center in Scarborough, said all of the horse people she has talked to have said training a horse to get comfortable with a containment device would be difficult.

Her sister, Cady said such a device would be next to impossible for her horse to take to.

“I own a horse that probably wouldn’t be able to have a containment device, so I wouldn’t be able to ride there anymore,” she said.

Healy said most horse owners are responsible and pick up after their animal, but some don’t and more could be done with enforcement. Pam Dillon, a resident of Beech Ridge Road, said if it came to it, she would be willing to drive the 5.5 miles from her home just to pick up horse droppings on the beach.

Linda Voskian, who lives near the town parking lot on Driftwood Lane, has not seen horse droppings on the beach to be an issue and asked the animal control officer and police and was told they fielded no complaints about the topic. She said the containment devices are not sold locally and are only 30 to 50 percent effective.

Pine Point resident Susan Hamill begs to differ and said she has pictures of horses and feces not picked up from the beach.

Caroline Rodrigue doesn’t ride horses, but often accompanies her daughter to the beach when she does. Rodrigue said she always gets stops by beach visitors surprised to see a horse on Pine Point Beach.

“Most people haven’t see a horse gallop or cantor on a beach. I believe it adds value to our town. I’ve been stopped by tourists who say how lucky we are to live in a community where you can ride horses at the beach,” she told councilors.

Scarborough Town Council Vice Chairman Kate St. Clair said she was surprised by Old Orchard Beach’s action.

“We have a beach agreement with them, so I am not sure how that will work,” she wrote in an email to the Courier.

“I will say, I wish they had contacted us before making a move like that. We did contact them before we put the ordinance together and they completely agreed with us.”

While Scarborough could follow in Old Orchard Beach’s footsteps and do away with the requirement, Scarborough councilor Peter Hayes said he would be “supportive of at minimum at least a year delay in implementation.”

Foley also supports such a measure, if possible, because it would give time “for horses and their owners to acquire and become accustomed to the Bun Bags.”

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

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