Proposed Park Rules Spur Horseback Riders' Anger

Oct 1, 2013

More than one hundred New Hampshire horse lovers turned out at a public hearing Tuesday to speak out against proposed rule changes for state parks. Horse-back riders fear the proposed changes would limit the availability of trails.

Director Phil Bryce (second from left) sits and listens to dismayed riders.
Credit Ryan Lessard / NHPR

Phil Bryce, the Director of New Hampshire Parks and Rec, opened the hearing by stressing that the new rules governing the use of horses are pretty much the same as the old ones.

“We believe equestrian use is an opportunity in the state. An opportunity for Parks to contribute. And this was merely an attempt to clarify it so that everybody understood it.”

Bryce argued that DRED’s only substantive change to the rules was an attempt to define road-width trails as being at least eight feet wide. But not everyone was buying it.

Joe McAllister of Weare condemned the DRED members for calling some of the rules, clarifications.

“You’re adding. You’re changing the rules. You’re not clarifying the rules…If you’re gonna change the rules, tell everybody you’re gonna change the rules.”

He and others who turned out at the hearing say that the proposed rule changes are unreasonable.

The meeting room at the DRED building has about fifty seats. Folks lined the walls and poured out of the corner doors.
Credit Ryan Lessard / NHPR

Of particular annoyance is the holding of a horse owner to the same standard as that of a dog owner.

Judy Lorimer of Pepperell Mass argued that forcing horse riders to dismount and scoop each time their horse quote, “eliminates” is untenable.

“I measured the distance from the ground to my stirrup; its 36 inches. That’s the same height as your kitchen counter. Now I would like to see anybody put their foot on their kitchen counter, bounce a couple of times, stand up on it while it’s moving. [Laughter/applause] Asking people to get off their horse to clean up manure is unreasonable.”

The crowd had the parks officials on the defensive. And when they spoke, they repeatedly noted that these rules have been in effect since 2006. But that didn’t mollify Lynne Yeaton of Loudon.

“You DRED members, I kinda get the impression that none of you are horse owners…”

DRED plans to host a dialogue with equine groups next Monday.