Mandan News

Vern Davis: Horses and bikes, bikes and horses

Over the past few years that I have been writing this column for the newspapers in Morton County, I thought I had covered about all of the topics four or five times over, but I have a new one for the people of the area.

You are probably thinking: repair of the Missouri River facilities – but no, it is one that has arisen in the last couple years. Hold on to your hat… it is horses; horses and the Harmon Lake Area.

A couple years ago, the local mountain biking club got together and approached the Morton County Water Board about building a bike and hiking trail around the new lake, which is Harmon Lake. The water board at the time said they could not afford to do it. The Biking Club said in essence: “Let us worry about that.”

So the biking club applied for and received a grant of over $100,000 for the trail, which was built over a two-year span. To anyone who is a bicycle rider, it is a first class facility and one which challenges even a very good bike rider.

What’s this have to do with horses? Well, it seems from day one the horse riders have thought they have a huge stake in the trail and have been riding it as well. The hooves of the horses leave deep indentations on the trail which catch rain and runoff water, and very quickly start the process of erosion. When asked to stay off the trail, several of the horse riders have become very indignant and made it known that they had part ownership because they believe they have that right.

Trail signs asking the horse riders to stay off have been removed- nuts and bolts taken off the posts and signs thrown around; pushing and pulling the whole sign out and tossing it. I have been told by a couple horse riders, “We would never do that.” Well, it has been done and not just once. We are wondering who?

At last week’s Morton County Water Board meeting it was decided to ban horses from the Harmon Lake area until a mutual understanding can be reached by all.  So, the gyst of this whole dilemma is this: Are the horse people willing to search for funding and develop a facility for the enjoyment of riding, or are you just going to sit back, complain, and do nothing? There are roughly 1,000 acres in the Harmon Lake Park. Surely there must be some sources of funding they can apply for to hasten the development of a facility as the bike people have done.

Maybe this column sounds skewed to the bike riders, but in my mind, it isn’t. I do not participate in either activity, never have, but please consider this: there is room for all at this big, beautiful facility and it is just time for the equestrian people to step up to the plate just as the bike people have.

See you next month – unless someone comes after me!