City, equestrians dispute whether horses should be considered transportation | NevadaAppeal.com

City, equestrians dispute whether horses should be considered transportation

Cory McConnell
Appeal Staff Writer

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Desiree McKean, 13, talks with neighbor Lynn Robey in South Carson Monday morning. The McKean family joined Rich Wontorski, center in cowboy hat, in distributing flyers to notify neighbors of proposed changes to area horse trails. Carson City officials want to designate horseback riding as recreation as opposed to transportation.

Saying horseback riding is more recreation than transportation, Carson City officials are recommending equestrian trails be removed from the realm of transportation and marked solely the domain of the city’s parks department – a move horse lovers say will be detrimental to remaining opportunities to ride.

“We’re already going through growing pains,” said equestrian advocate Rich Wontorski, “Don’t make it any tougher.”

With construction work ongoing for the reconstruction of the Virginia & Truckee Railroad and the Carson City freeway and housing developments in some of Carson City’s most rural areas, riders are worried traditional horse territory such as long-used paths leading from subdivisions to open space and more notable rides, like the Pony Express and Overland trails, will be blocked without more attention and money.

But a measure up for a vote by the Regional Transportation Commission to declare horse riding the realm of recreation-only would effectively cut equestrian-related projects from the city’s transportation budget – horse-related projects are already cut off from federal transportation funds.

City officials maintain that it’s only right that Parks and Recreation handle horse issues. After all, the streets and stoplights that carry and regulate cars are the real purpose of the transportation department, while paths, trails and open space is the real purpose of the parks and recreation department.

Still, Equestrian Alliance, a local horse-advocate group, argues that in making such a rigid designation, the city is taking a big step in the wrong direction.

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“It would be really nice for everyone to work together on coming up with a solution, instead of people trying to find a way to say ‘it’s not my responsibility,'” said Equestrian Alliance organizer Beth Scott.

Horse riders now work with Carson City’s recreation and transportation departments on equestrian issues. But while recreation officials seem sympathetic to riders’ concerns, it’s really the transportation department that has the money and power to get anything done, according to Equestrian Alliance.

Local riders deny that horses are any less transportation than bicycles. To prove it, on Monday, Wontorski delivered about 100 fliers, on horseback, urging people in the horse-heavy area of South Carson to take action.

Horses are part of the city’s remaining heritage, while few other vestiges of the West have survived – just look at Nevada’s new state quarter – but the animals won’t remain a part of our culture without a little preservation effort, Wontorski said.

“I can ride my horse all the way around Carson City right now,” he said. “Don’t disturb what we already have.”

Riders and the city are currently discussing ways through the Carson City freeway, which when built will block paths from South Carson City leading to open space.

State and local transportation officials plan on widening the sections of Clearview Drive and Edmonds Drive that will shoot over the freeway to accommodate bicycles, pedestrians and horses. Horses, however, would share either the sidewalks or bike paths. With cars coming toward horses from the front and behind, while others coming from the sides seemingly disappear under them, such an overpass would be a perilous journey, no matter how well-trained the horse, Scott said.

The city and Equestrian Alliance have proposed a separate, horse-only crossing at Valley View Way, which is not currently designed to cross the freeway. But that project would cost up to $1 million, and neither the Nevada Department of Transportation nor the Federal Highway Administration would fund it.

n Contact reporter Cory McConnell at cmcconnell@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1217.

Equestrian trails

meeting

What: Carson City Regional Transportation Commission meeting

Where: Sierra Room of the Community Center, 851 E. William St.

When: 5:30 p.m. Wednesday

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