There is no doubt we have out our backdoor some of the most spectacular coastline in the world. Still the dunes and the beaches are rarely very crowded. Of course there are the days when it seems that we are all on them at the same time and still there is space between us. Or as Daniel Boone liked to say “elbow room.”
Lanphere Dunes offers permit-only access and otherwise is closed to the public. The area just south of that -- called North Ma-le'l Dunes -- is also open only for guided walks on Sundays at 2 p.m.. No dogs, no horses need apply. Coming south next is South Ma-le'l Dunes which has a small system of trails including a short direct trail to the beach for equestrians. In between the two BLM Ma-le'l parcels is the Gun Club. South from there is the newly acquired Friends of the Dunes property many may know as the Stamps property. This was purchased in large part with funds from the Coastal Conservancy, a government agency devoted to providing access along the California coast. They were also a major factor in providing the public with many of the fantastic facilities at the Manila Community Center.
The Friends of the Dunes are in the process of determining how best to use the existing trails many of which horses have always been allowed on. The Stamps loved having riders show up at their house and had spoken of putting in a hitching rail for visitors. That is one of the proposals that has already been offered to the new owners.
Equestrians and those that just like to see horses out enjoying the fresh air with them of course hope the Friends of the Dunes will have the foresight to keep the majority of the horse trails available. We should be concerned however because NO HORSE signs have been put up already.
The owner of Wildberries and a major donor to Friends of the Dunes, Phil Ricord has a bright, beautiful daughter who just loves horses and rode with my late wife and I many, many times. When I spoke with Phil he was not aware there were these issues concerning equestrian use. It would be a shame if his own daughter may not even be able to ride on the trail named after her dad's business. This is a trail that has been in use by both horseman and hikers for a long, long time.
According to the Friends of the Dunes, there have been no stated conflicts to date. We tend to stay on the trails, are generally pretty darn courteous and can be a real asset in an emergency.
The Friends of the Dunes is seeking public input involving issues for the various user groups. They have said there will be meetings in the near future for the general public as they have already invited their Manila neighbors to one last week. I encourage all of you to make your voices heard at and/or at the upcoming public meetings. I can be reached at .
Uri Driscoll is a lifetime horseman and a resident of Arcata.
◼ Equestrian restrictions - Letter to the editor 03/31/2009
I appreciated Uri Driscoll calling attention to the equestrian access issue of the Stamps property that has been acquired by Friends of the Dunes. I am puzzled and troubled by the “No horse” signs on these trails in the dunes that have been traditionally used by equestrians for many years. It is a shame that equestrians are being increasingly restricted in their access to public lands on both national and now local levels.