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Manchester panel poised to enact restrictions on horses on Water Works land

New Hampshire Union Leader

April 12. 2014 9:12PM

MANCHESTER - A package of restrictions that would keep horses off Manchester Water Works property under most circumstances is headed to the Manchester Board of Water Commissioners.

The Commission's Rules and Regulations Committee on Friday recommended regulations designed to address what Water Works officials say is an increased use of Lake Massabesic watershed property for recreational horse use.

Water Works officials say the horse waste can introduce dangerous microbes into the water and lead to algal blooms.

The new regulations say:

-- Horses would be allowed on gravel fire roads as long as they wore some kind of diaper or waste-collection device.

-- Horses would be allowed on watershed property as part of a commission-approved, organized riding event, such as a carriage ride. Plans for the event would have to include immediate removal of waste.

-- Horses would never be allowed in water or on the shoreline, beaches, boat launches or public parks.

"We're trying to accommodate (horse) use, but we want to protect the watershed," said Kimberley Griswold, chairman of the Rules and Regulations Committee.

The recommended changes are expected to go before the full Board of Water Commissioners on April 24.

The restrictions aren't sitting well with the horse riding community, which has turned out in strength at past hearings to voice opposition. Four attended the committee meeting Friday and spoke afterward.

"If they were to show clear proof, scientific proof that (horses) were destroying our water supply, I would probably be for it," said Manchester resident Leslie Baxter of the Granite State Carriage Association.

The four said sensible regulations would allow horses at Tower Hill Pond or the fire roads around Little Massabesic that are called the Maze. Regulations could also require riders to dismount and spread horse waste when feasible, they said.

They said Manchester tap water is award-winning quality, and healthy horses do not pollute.

"It's all about scare tactics," said Auburn resident Dorine Remillard.

Griswold said she supports efforts to study water quality, particularly because blue-green algae has been spotted in the lake. But she wants the restrictions to move forward.

"Because it's a water-quality issue, I think it's the board's obligation to err on the side of caution," Griswold said.

Last month, the state Department of Environmental Services removed horse riding from its list of restricted activities at Massabesic, following an outpouring of complaints from horse owners and several state senators.

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