Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
Petition: Let horse riders hit the trail
Manor Twp. cites safety in saying no horses on trail, which officials hope to open this year BY DAVID O'CONNOR, Staff Writer
Jason Shadle has gotten on his 8-year-old Morgan horse, Marco, many times over the years and has taken him on area trails without any problems.
But the way things stand, Shadle won't be allowed to ride his horse along the 6-mile stretch of Manor Township's rail-trail along the Susquehanna River, which is set to open sometime this year.
"We'll be limited to riding on the country roads around here, which can be dangerous," Shadle said this week.
With horses not allowed alongside the hikers and bicyclists who are expected to use the trail, Shadle, a Marietta resident who keeps Marco at stables in Manor Township, plans to present a petition to the Manor supervisors Monday.
Shadle as of Thursday had more than 200 signatures on the online petition, which asks the supervisors to allow horses there.
But one township supervisor, John May, said it's simply a matter of safety not to have the horses and riders on the trail.
"We think there are several spots along there that are too narrow" for horses, other animals and people to share, May said Thursday.
"Every horse is not docile. Some horses are high-spirited. ... A dog or a child could spook them," or some loud noise could, too, he said.
"It would be nice if we could (allow them), but we can't. I'm not opposed to horses on trails, but our trail's too narrow to put a fence down the middle," as some trails elsewhere have done to divide the trail, with horses on one side and bicyclists, for example, on the other, May said.
There also are three or four "pinch points," or places where the trail narrows and where horses would not be a good idea, he added.
Shadle plans to present his petition when the Manor supervisors meet this Monday at 7 p.m. at the township building, 950 W. Fairway Drive.
For more information on the petition, go to http://www.change.org/petitions/manor-township-allow-horseback-riding-on-the-manor-township-rail-trail.
The township purchased the rail-trail land last June from Norfolk Southern railroad. It runs along the abandoned Enola Low Grade rail line from Turkey Hill to the Safe Harbor Dam.
In a 2012 newspaper article on the trail, it was stated that horse riding would be allowed, along with parking for horse trailers, Shadle said. But since then, the decision was made to not allow horse riders on the trail, he said.
When Shadle has gone out on trails elsewhere or watched other riders, instead of observing problems, "it has usually been quite the opposite. They usually want to come up, pet the horses and say 'Hi' to them."
Some of the trails near Mount Gretna "are very narrow and are shared with hikers, bikers and horses," Shadle wrote in comments posted with his online petition.
"The systems they have in place seem to work well. I'm sure the township supervisors can do some more research, perhaps a discussion with the supervisors from those (other) areas for guidance?"
May said the township "originally considered (horse riding) as a possibility, but we made a conscious decision to disallow them" for the safety reasons.
There are other areas along the trail, including some 18 miles in other municipalities, where horse riders can go, he said.
"But I'm just one of five (supervisors). We'll look at the petition, and we'll give it a fair shot," he said.
Norfolk Southern also never allowed horse riders when it was the owner of the property, May pointed out.
Meanwhile, May said completion of the trail in Manor is "coming down the home stretch. It will be a gorgeous trail."
No opening date for the rail-trail has been set, although township officials are hopeful it will be this year.
"We'll be limited to riding on the country roads around here, which can be dangerous."
Leading petition drive