Great news for our horse friends, on November 17th, Half Moon Bay’s City Council voted not to restrict horses on the public beach between Poplar Street and Kelly Avenue! There are few other beaches and no state beaches that allow horses but since Poplar Beach is a city-owned beach, Half Moon Bay has jurisdiction over it. Concerns had been raised about public health and safety. The Council held two well attended hearings to consider three possible options; the first would have restricted all large animals and horses, the second would have restricted just commercial horses, and the last option was that there would be no such restrictions.
A standing-room audience of Coast side and other Bay Area equestrians were there in support of the no restrictions for horses on the beach alternative and to rebut the contention that horses on the beach creates an accident hazard. Riders from as far as Sunnyvale came to these meetings and spoke against having any restrictions with only one resident speaking in favor of restrictions.
Half Moon Bay Police Chief Don O’Keefe recommended the restriction of commercial horse use on the popular stretch of beach on the grounds that their riders are more likely to be inexperienced therefore possibly creating dangerous situations for other beach visitors. However, restrictions on only commercial/rental horses) would have singled out both Sea Horse Ranch and Friendly Acres, the only commercial riding ranches in Half Moon Bay. Being able to ride on the beach is one of the reasons both ranches are successful, it is the experience their customers want. The owner, Willa Chapman, said the proposed beach restrictions were based on “misinformation” that because many of her guests are inexperienced riders there would be more risk to other beach goers.
The other concern was the mess that the horses leave behind. City Staff raised the long-standing concerns about horse manure and E-Coli contamination at the beach. Members of the public pointed out that while this is a concern, dirty diapers, dog feces, broken glass, prophylactics and sewer spills are much more of a concern.
Council member Jim Grady made a motion to restrict commercial horse activity on the beach but Mayor John Muller and Council members Naomi Patridge and Marina Fraser voted against the motion, which was supported only by Council member Bonnie Dunham. After Grady’s motion failed, Mayor Muller made a motion to not restrict horse activity on the beach which then passed unanimously.
The Council did direct staff to install warning signs on the beach and asked the equestrian community to prove they are responsible by participating in a volunteer effort to educate beachgoers and other equestrians about how to be safe on the beach. Council members also asked for volunteers to clean up after horses on a regular basis. City Staff told the Council that they have little confidence that this will be done. Therefore, the Council will look at this issue again in a year and may institute changes if there are no improvements at that time. In the meantime, the City will begin charging an entry fee to horse riders at Poplar Beach and use the money to clean up the beach and parking lot.
It be-hooves all of us, to clean up after our animal friends (equine or canine) when we bring them to public beaches.