EDITORIAL | Rules for horse manure on SW trails a reasonable step

South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District commissioners discussed a rather smelly issue this week — horse poop, lots of it.

Good on them, we say. Horse manure on public trail systems isn’t a sexy or popular topic and will almost certainly become the butt of a few bad jokes. Yet, we think it’s a legitimate issue that warrants consideration by the board and are relieved it wasn’t swept under the rug. The trails in question are there for everyone, not just equestrians, and hikers and joggers shouldn’t have to dodge land mines left behind by one specific group.

The issue came up earlier this month when a man complained about large amounts of horse manure on the trails at Community Park. A district official said the matter has been brought up before, but that it had always been handled internally, i.e. staff picked it up. So, it was decided that  the issue should be put on Wednesday’s board agenda. Lo and behold, another man showed up at the same meeting to complain about the very same issue.

Perhaps that’s just a couple of people whining, but we doubt it. The trails at Community Park are popular and horses are, after all, very large. That this isn’t affecting other park users seems far fetched, and that riders aren’t required to pick up after their animals nonsensical.

Go to just about any park in the state, or in the country for that matter, and visitors seem like they are universally required to pick up after their dogs. If it’s not a rule, it’s so strongly encouraged that anyone who tries to duck this sacred duty is blasted with scowls potent enough to wither flowers.

Why should horses be any different? Because what they leave behind is larger or smells different? We say that’s a bunch of … baloney.

This is not an attack on equestrians, 4-H or any other riders. In fact, we feel compelled to point out that Whidbey horse groups have been amenable to resolving similar concerns at other trails systems in the past. What we are saying is that everyone should have to clean up after their animals when in public places.

The South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District commissioners should take this issue seriously, and develop and adopt rules of conduct for all animal owners at public parks. They may have to tread carefully, but at least doing so would save the rest of us from having to watch where we step.