Letters: Horses on the causeway

I appreciate your article in the Anna Maria Island Sun dealing with potential health concerns of horse fecal matter on the Palma Sola Causeway. In fact, your article also brought up for me another concern in addition to horse poop. I initially expressed my concerns by written letter to Bradenton City Councilman, Ward One, Gene Gallo in February. He sent me a short reply basically saying “tough luck ol’ boy,” the horse folks are on state right of way, and no one around here has any jurisdiction.

These horses have become a real problem for those of us who wish to fish on the north side of the causeway. At 76 years old, my wife Lucy, and I enjoy only a few activities, and wade fishing on the causeway is fun for us, for we are also catching food for the dinner table. Unfortunately, due to red tide and bans on keeping our fish of choice, we’ve retired the rods until the ban is lifted.

My concerns/gripes follow: What started as a one-horse trailer some time ago has expanded to three trailers, meaning more horses in the water, or so it seems. Lucy and I were fishing one day a few hundred yards west of the trailers, i.e., towards the island, with about 20 yards or so of line in the water. I saw several horses coming our way, and as they were getting closer, I tried to wave them off for obvious reasons. The lady in the lead was starting to invade our space and I told her we were fishing. She smiled, turned around towards the others, and made an arm gesture to continue forward. They started to run over our lines. I screamed at them, took another rod and tried to cast a plug at them and it hung up in the rod (thank goodness…I didn’t want to hurt anyone but I was angry). When they realized my anger, they turned around and went back the way they came, and the seagrasses that the horses trod over, perhaps 20 feet from the shoreline, broke loose and the surface of the water was filled with grass cuttings. The water no longer looked pristine, it was a mess. It was a horrible mess…no apology from the lead horsewoman was forthcoming, it was like she owned the place!

And yes, there is horse poop in the water.

It’s getting to where folks have to fish only on the south side of the causeway when the horses are there. I feel like these farmers/ranchers with horses are increasingly taking advantage of the situation, and I’d like to see their enterprise kept within a minimum area… truly I’d like to see them gone. If anything, they could be more respectful of their surroundings and the other folks that also want to enjoy the north side of the causeway. It’s hard to fish on the north side when you see the horses several hundred yards from the trailer along the road. Who wants to stop and wade out in the water with potential horse crap in it and knowing the horses have trodded over the area cutting the grasses, and causing the fish to leave their grass surroundings and seek other areas.

Only very seldom do you see families parked on the north side with kids playing in the water. The news is out… it’s probably not safe! Is the one or two ranchers and some tourists more important than the multitudes who enjoy the causeway. The north side is basically dead to us who live here, as well as the tourists who spend their vacation monies in several neighboring businesses. The horse folks make money from the tourists, I assume. Yes, some tourists are obviously happy about that, BUT you don’t see them swimming in that water!

We all had better start taking more of an action-related stand towards our water resources in these days of uncertain climates. Simply waiting for bacterial samples to reach an acceptable level while continuing to indulge in the practices that likely resulted in high bacterial counts should be unacceptable for all folks who genuinely care about our environment.

Edward (Ed) Segerson, Bradenton

My wife and I noticed recently “50 fun things to do in Manatee and Sarasota, one of which is horseback riding in Palma Sola Bay. We have lived adjacent to the bay since 2000, and have enjoyed swimming, fishing and boating in the bay since 1974.

When we first heard that a business providing horseback riding in the bay, primarily on the north side, was going to be allowed, I called several elected officials of the county and city and noted my concerns regarding the potential water quality issues. I was familiar with the fact that individual horse owners, over the years, had ridden their horses in the bay, but never as a business.

The officials were helpful and explained the jurisdiction issues on the causeway, but it appeared that businesses would be allowed to operate. I understand free enterprise and as a small business owner, I had mixed feelings about objecting to the business,  that was, until just after the businesses started, and I was fishing off my dock, and saw the horse turds floating by.

Numerous riding businesses now have many horses in the bay on the north side. I know that they are being responsible for any droppings on the shore, and I respect that. It’s clearly not stopping the amount of horse urine and feces in that area of the bay, when the horses are walking along the shoreline and in the bay along the east shoreline.

What we all need to consider is the total effect of these private business operations on the public. I have seen a decline in the use of the north shore since the horseback riding businesses were allowed. I know I wouldn’t want to be lounging along that shoreline or have a small child there when horses are walking in the same area.

With all the horses now using the east shoreline and proceeding north along that area, well in the water, what if any effect has the walking in that water had to the seagrasses in that area. I don’t see how the horses have not obliterated the grasses by now.

So I ask the appropriate elected officials, should we continue to ignore the negative impact on the public from the private businesses operating the horseback riding in the bay, including any negative impacts to the horses themselves, or after several years of allowing these businesses to, once and for all, look into the possible negative impacts, to the bay and the public that enjoys the bay.

Robert Lombardo, Bradenton

Concerns raised over horse waste in bay

Horses not allowed on Gulf beaches