Staff Report | THE POST-STANDARD | August 12, 2008
The town of Brutus’ move in July to ban horses from its portion of the Erie Canal trail drew about 30 people to a town meeting Monday night, including horse owners disappointed by the decision and a representative of Rep. Michael Arcuri, D-Utica.
Some in the community have been upset since the town decided to post “No Horses Allowed” signs on the two-mile stretch of the trail that passes through Brutus.
Town officials worried that the path would be damaged by horse hooves that sink into the trail which was reconstructed two years ago using stone dust.
While construction of the new path was paid for by the state as part its 500-mile multi-use trail along the canal, repairs are now paid by the town, according to a 25-year agreement between the town and the state.
“The trail was designed for walkers, joggers, nature lovers, it was never designed for horses,” said Supervisor Jim Hotaling, who added that several people complained of the damage and of the droppings left on the trail by the horses.
“(The Town Board) agreed to pay for the general maintenance of the trail but we felt we couldn’t sit by and say ‘Well, let the horses cause all this damage and then go back and spend money to repair it.’ They were costs that were way beyond our expectations,” he said.
Kathy Lawler, who lives on Towpath Road next to the trail, said the trail was poorly designed and should have taken into account horse riders and people like her brother, Patrick, who is in a wheelchair and who can’t make it through the new stone surface.
“It was our money they used to put up these trails and we can’t use them, they ruined them,” Lawler said.
But Thom Higgins, of Weedsport, said the horses are ruining the trails for everyone else.
“My wife and I go every morning, we take the kids or we jog, and it just gets so cut up with holes (from the hooves), you hit them and you can’t get around them,” he said.
To the meeting, Lawler and others brought pages of signatures of people who want the trails fixed to accommodate horses and other uses.
Cynthia Cornelius, a caseworker and representative of Arcuri’s attended the meeting to gather information about the trail and other issues, according to the office.
Both sides at Monday night’s meeting agreed to discuss the issue, and possibly work out a compromise in which horse riders would help maintain the trail.
Hotaling said the board would consider the requests and look into several options, including talking to the state about reinforcing the trail or putting in a “side” trail for horses.
Hotaling said the board contacted the Cayuga County Sheriff’s Department and notified them of the posted signs, but there is no town law against horses on the trails.
© 2008 The Post-Standard. Used with permission.
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