Manor to keep horses off its trail BY PHILIP GRUBER, Correspondent
Jason Shadle sounded the call, and the cavalry came.
But while supporters of horse riding showed up in force at the Manor Township supervisors' meeting on Monday, they did not score a victory.
Township leaders held firm on their ban on horses on the township's section of the rail-trail being built on the former Enola Low Grade Line.
The equine enthusiasts worked hard to persuade the supervisors to reconsider the ban.
Shadle, a Marietta resident who stables his horses in Manor Township, presented the supervisors with a petition with 250 signatures supporting riding on the trail, which is expected to open later this year.
Hikers, runners, bicyclists and dog walkers will be allowed to use the path, which runs about five miles in Manor Township from Turkey Hill to Safe Harbor. The township bought the property last year from Norfolk Southern.
Several other townships, such as Martic, ban horseback riding on their sections of the rail-trail, while some, including Providence, permit riding.
The eight people who spoke in favor of horses came from as far as Holtwood and filled the entire half hour granted for a topic of public comment.
Shadle and other speakers said that horseback riders are increasingly feeling excluded from potential areas for outings away from congested public roads.
Resident Mary Glazier, a member of the township's rail-trail steering committee whose property abuts the trail, said that the steering committee discussed horses at its first meeting in 2009.
Referring to the minutes for that meeting, Glazier said the committee "appeared to be unanimous" in wanting to allow horses on the trail.
Supervisor John May said he would like to let horseback riders use the trail, but "safety is our main concern."
May noted that the trail includes several narrow areas, called "pinch points," that might not accommodate riders and other recreational users trying to travel the trail at the same time.
The trail also is confined by fences on both sides because of a cliff and Norfolk Southern land, May said.
Pat Hill, a Conestoga resident, questioned the narrowness of the pinch points. The Lebanon Valley Rails-to-Trails has two narrow bridges "that can barely two fit two bicyclists" at the same time, and she frequents that trail with her horse, she said.
Several other riders said that they are used to traversing narrow footpaths on horseback.
Citing his experiences with dog owners struggling to control their pets at Safe Harbor Park, Supervisor Allen Kreider expressed concern about encounters between dogs and horses.
Heidi Douts, of Washington Boro, said that she has had no problems with other animals while riding her horse or walking her dog on public trails.
Several riders said that horseback riders are very responsible people who pause to let other users pass, who allow excited children to pet their animals and who clean up their animals' droppings.
Supervisor John Wentzel agreed that the assembled equestrians were "obviously a conscientious group," but he said that horses still posed numerous difficulties that would not exist if they were simply excluded.
After the meeting, May said, "Ninety percent of (trail users) are responsible. I'm worried about the other 10 percent."
Brandon Clark, supervisor chairman, said, "We're already having problems with deer kicking up the trail," and horses could do more damage.
"It is the construction of the trail we're concerned about," he said.
Glazier questioned the supervisors' choice of the scientifically engineered trail surface over crushed stone.
"If the deer are damaging it, then we're in big trouble," she said. "I hope the supervisors haven't been sold a bill of goods."
Pat Hill agreed.
"Bicycles are going to be worse than horses," she said.
After the meeting, May said the trail mix selected for the trail's surface was designed by Penn State University scientists to be smooth and self-healing.
"I expect the trail will compress more. It's already compressed" since the township laid the mix on the trail, he said.
The choice of trail surface "was extensively researched," he said.
The supervisors did not vote on the horse issue at the meeting and did not indicate whether they would revisit the topic at a future meeting.
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