Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Horse riders' hopes dashed as Columbia drops equestrian course

BY Ryan Martin

COLUMBIA — Lucie Hess loves to ride her horse on the trails in Boone County. The 55-year-old Columbia resident enjoys seeing the "beautiful valleys, wildflowers and rock formations."

The area features plenty of spots for pleasure riding, Hess said. Riders have access to more than 50 miles of trails and the 750 acres in Rock Bridge Memorial State Park. But Hess said mid-Missouri horse riders lack access to cross-country courses, which use natural obstacles such as logs and creeks to let riders and their horses practice jumping.

"Those courses that are around are private and don't open up to the public," she said.

The Columbia Parks and Recreation Department initially included a public course in the southeast regional park plan, but it was cut in favor of a natural preservation area after local environmental groups opposed it.

Department officials originally thought restricting the horses to 17 acres would limit their impact on the environment, but they decided the "the wide open and dispersed nature of the activity" was too difficult to manage, according to the proposal presented at the Feb. 1 Columbia City Council meeting.

The report noted that water laced with horse manure could travel into caves and springs, causing ecological problems.


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