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Bradenton looks to rein in beach rides

6:54 PM, Jun 23, 2011   |    comments
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Bradenton, Florida - Dogs frolicked along the Palma Sola Causeway in Bradenton Thursday, but frequently, you can find much bigger animals here.

A local business brings tourists to the beach here for a ride on the wet side. But locals say private owners have also been horseback riding on the beach for decades.

"Back in the 70's, the kids who had their own horses would ride their horses over there," says beachgoer Jill George.

However, the city of Bradenton is about to rein in all this horsing around. City council members are moving to ban horses on the beach and have directed the city attorney to draft an ordinance. Public hearings will be held on the issue in the future.

Council members say they worry about safety with such large animals near beachgoers and they also have concerns about public health and the impact of horse poop in the water.

Tim Mattox runs the business Beach Horses. He's been bringing tourists from around the world to ride along the beach for three years. Mattox says the guided rides are safe, that his business keeps the beach clean and that horse manure in small amounts doesn't hurt the water quality.

"In fact, this side of the bay where were ride is consistently cleaner than that side of the bay where we never ride," says Mattox, pointing across Manatee Avenue West.

And while council members say they've received complaints about the horses, some beachgoers on Thursday support the rides.

Keith Higbee says he's seen the business clean up the beach. "The wagon with the lady, just like at the circus picking up the elephant poop-they pick up every piece of horse poop there could be."

And Higbee, who works at a local restaurant, says he'd also hate to see an operation that's good for tourism be forced to ride off into the sunset.

"They're majestic," he says of the horses. "They walk up and down the beach. They look beautiful."

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