Pilot project to test allowing horses on Confederation Trail

·2 min read
Horses can create so much damage on a trail that it is impossible to cycle, says Bryson Guptill. (Shane Ross/CBC - image credit)
Horses can create so much damage on a trail that it is impossible to cycle, says Bryson Guptill. (Shane Ross/CBC - image credit)

A pilot project will grant horse-riding access to three 15-kilometre sections of P.E.I.'s Confederation Trail in rural areas around O'Leary, Kinkora and Hermitage.

The pilot comes at the request of P.E.I. Trail Riders, a group that works to "secure and maintain access to trails across P.E.I." for horseback riding, according to its website.

P.E.I. Transportation Minister James Aylward says it's been discussed since the trail was being built, and it's time to see if the idea can work.

"That's part of the reason to do a pilot, to get the answers once and for all, to understand the impact of having horses on the trail, so that we can make an educated decision," Aylward said.

Nicole Williams/CBC
Nicole Williams/CBC

There will be a number of measures in place to minimize damage to the trail. This time of year was chosen so the trail would be relatively dry and durable, and the horses would not be wearing iron shoes.

There will be a public education campaign about how horses and bicycles can safely share the trail, and the government will create a special email for feedback. Maintenance crews will monitor the condition of the trail.

'Torn up' by hoof prints

But Island Trails, a group that builds and maintains trails on the Island, argues the horses will make those sections of the trail unsafe.

Island Trails board member Bryson Guptill says horses can cause damage that make the trails unusable for others.

"Every so often horses get on the trail anyhow, in spite of the fact that they're not supposed to be there," Guptill told Island Morning host Laura Chapin.

Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC
Jessica Doria-Brown/CBC

"When that happens, the trail bed gets really torn up by the hoof prints and it makes it almost impossible to ride a bicycle on it, because it gets so washboardy that really people don't enjoy it at all and they're tempted to get off the trail and get on the highway instead."

Guptill said he's experienced this himself, and been forced to get off his bike and push it. Cyclists can also spook horses, he said, which can be dangerous on a narrow trail.

P.E.I. Trail Riders declined the offer to speak to CBC News on the issue.

The pilot starts on Aug. 15.

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