LETTER: Fact checking was needed for horse bylaw

I went to the June 2 meeting on whether horses should be allowed on the beach.

Dear Editor:

I went to the June 2 meeting which was supposed to be a neutral place for residents to express their opinions on whether horses should be allowed on that particular beach or not.

At the meeting, Jeremy  Denegar, Summerland’s Director of Corporate Services and leader of this meeting, kept saying: “We have to compromise. We can change the bylaw. Health and Environment said it’s okay.”

When there’s a public input meeting, it should be led in a neutral way.

When I asked Jeremy who these people from Health and Environment were, it turned out to be only one person: a Health Protection Team Leader from Penticton.

The Health Protection Team leader has neither a medical degree nor another science degree.  All she told me about horses in the lake was: “They do it in the Cariboo.”

I said:  “We are not the Cariboo.  We live closer together.”

Then this team leader said:  “Well, pollutants are coming in from various creeks. I don’t see horses as a problem.”

When pressed, the team leader claimed that she did not say that having horses swim from the beach was all right, but only that the municipality had to decide.

In a letter to me, Jeremy stated that there was “insufficient evidence to prove that any perceived concern is more valid than another.”

No wonder there was “insufficient evidence” if not enough fact checking with experts was done.

Horse manure may contain a range of pathogens that can be spread to humans. That’s why careful gardeners compost manure.

For instance, horses can be carriers of salmonella without showing any symptoms.

You can find some information on manure pathogens from a University of Minnesota bulletin called Best Management Practices for Pathogen Control in Manure. Look up Horse Manure Pathogens on Google.

I am not anti-horse. I was an owner of a horse for six years and an avid equestrian for many more, but I do not think that horses belong on a beach where children and adults swim.

Last year there were horse poops floating in the water along the aforementioned area and washing up on neighbours’ beaches.

All lakeshore dwellers have had to put in an expensive sewer system to keep human excrement out of the lake. Yes, geese and ducks are still a problem and can cause diseases, but they are aquatic creatures and part of the lake’s ecosystem. Horses are not.

Yes, we do have dog beaches and dog feces can carry nasty pathogens, too.

But dogs try to defecate on land.

It is hoped that conscientious owners will take away those dog feces. Unfortunately, they don’t always.

Horses pee and poop massively, sometimes in the water, whenever and wherever they please.

If their dietary habits change, they may have diarrhea.

At the last council meeting, it was suggested that horse owners carry plastic bags and a net, to remove horse feces from the lake.

What a fantasy!

The minute feces enter the lake, some parts start to dissipate.

Part of our tourism appeal is based on clean beaches.

We cannot afford to lose that reputation just for the fun of a few.

Marilyn Hansen

Summerland