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Horseback riders aim to fight beach ban in Georgetown County

Though a final vote on banning horseback riding on Georgetown County beaches has been postponed, horse riders aren't waiting for the second reading to tell the County Council how they feel.

Ordinance opponents said they plan to attend Tuesday's meeting anyway.

Council Vice-Chairman Jerry Oakley said the ordinance was pushed back to give the council members more time to study the issue.

Sandy Hill, of the Georgetown Saddle Club, said she has organized a petition and knows there is at least one other circulating against the potential law.

She said there was a move to ban horses on the beach in the county in the late 1990s.

"We had to fight that, and we won," she said. "Hopefully we can stop it again this time."

Horses are now banned from the beaches from March 15 until Sept. 15 of each year,giving beach riders about six months out of the year.

But county staff members hear complaints about the consequences of horses on the beach, including manure left on the sand or in the parking lots, and horses trampling dunes, according to a county document discussing the proposed ordinance.

The document also said the county "does not have adequate staff to clean the beaches and/or enforce that owners are appropriately cleaning up after horses."

But Hill said the riders she knows clean up after their horses and she pointed out that the people don't ride on the main sandy part of the beach, but along the surf.

"We're in the low-tide, high-tide" area, she said. So manure "does not get onto the beach."

Hill said people who rent horses are the ones who don't clean up after their horses.

Oakley, along with Councilman Glen O'Connell, represents the beach areas in Georgetown and said most of the complaints he hears are generated from horse renters.

But, he said, county staff is working to determine what authority council has to regulate individual riders or horse rental businesses operating on the beach.

"I'm a great believer in being as informed as you can be," Oakley said.

He also said the council "wants to hear from the folks who will be affected."

Hill said she and many others will be at the council meeting to tell their side of the story.

"We'll be there for whatever duration it's going to go," she said.

Oakley said he thinks this is an issue "where you have folks on both sides who have an argument."

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