Horses not allowed on Gulf beaches

Horses not allowed on Gulf beaches
This photo of three horses on the beach in Holmes Beach was posted on Facebook on July 15. - Facebook | Submitted

HOLMES BEACH – While motorists were noticing a long, white horse trailer parked among the boat trailers at the Kingfish boat ramp Monday morning, beachgoers were even more surprised to see three horses on the beach near 45th Avenue.

A photo posted on the “Island Ratz Unite” Facebook page prompted a brief exchange between two members: “Wonder if we’re going to have to pass a “no horses in the bike lanes” ordinance now? LOL!”

The response: “They WERE in the bike lane this morning around 10:30 by the curve.”

Horses are not allowed on the beach on Anna Maria Island or at Kingfish boat ramp, Holmes Beach Police Sgt. Michael Pilato said, adding that someone called the police about the incident. A code enforcement officer was dispatched, but the horses were gone by the time the officer arrived on the scene, he said.

If you see horses on the beach or at Kingfish boat ramp, contact Holmes Beach Code Enforcement at 941-708-5833.

The Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department staff that maintains the beaches and boat ramps has been notified, said Michael Elswick, division manager for the Natural Resources Division.

“We’ll keep an eye out for this type of thing within the parks,” he said, meaning Coquina Beach and Manatee Beach. “Outside of the county-run beach parks, this would be an issue for Island municipality code enforcement.”

One horse- and dog-friendly beach

The only beach where horses – and dogs – are allowed is the Palma Sola Causeway on Manatee Avenue West in Bradenton.

The riders may have been discouraged from going to the causeway Monday because the causeway was under a no-swimming advisory earlier this month, Manatee County Marine Rescue Chief Joe Westerman said.

The Florida Department of Health issued a no-swim advisory for the Palma Sola Bay South beach after tests on July 8 and July 10 confirmed that enterococcus bacteria from fecal matter in the water exceeded EPA guidelines.

The advisory was lifted on Monday, said Tom Larkin, director of the Manatee County Environmental Health department.

A story in The Sun on July 6 uncovered concerns about horse waste at the causeway causing poor water quality and destroying seagrass. Officials from the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department, Keep Manatee Beautiful and Palma Sola Scenic Highway Corridor Management Entity expressed concerns about the issue.

Concerns raised over horse waste in bay