BCH Buckhorn Range member, and Jefferson County Assessor Jeff Chapman, left, with fellow member Bob Hoyle and State Representative Mike Chapman discuss some of the problems and possible solutions to keeping dedicated multi-use trails open to horses, along with preserving the ruralness of Miller Peninsula State Park for “our kids and future generations,” emphasized Mike Chapman. (Karen Griffiths/For Peninsula Daily News)

BCH Buckhorn Range member, and Jefferson County Assessor Jeff Chapman, left, with fellow member Bob Hoyle and State Representative Mike Chapman discuss some of the problems and possible solutions to keeping dedicated multi-use trails open to horses, along with preserving the ruralness of Miller Peninsula State Park for “our kids and future generations,” emphasized Mike Chapman. (Karen Griffiths/For Peninsula Daily News)

HORSEPLAY: Fairs, 4-H and camping for horses on the Peninsula

AFTER THE WORLD as we knew it came to a screeching halt at the height of the pandemic, it sure was nice to see how much the 4-H horse club membership numbers have grown this year at both the Jefferson County and Clallam County fairs.

As I entered the Jefferson County Fair through the gate adjacent to the horse arena, I delighted in seeing the familiar face of Penny Doan judging the horse classes, which included English, Western, Showmanship, Equitation, Jumping and Dressage, along with fair board member ­— and top barrel racer — Glenda Meek, who later judged the games. When I spoke with Doan later that day, she was thrilled to also be a judge at last week’s Clallam County Fair.

Let’s hope many more youths get involved come September after school starts. For more information about 4-H horse clubs in Clallam County, contact Melanie Greer at 360-417-2398 or melanie.greer@wsu.edu. In Jefferson County, contact Sarah Pederson at 360-379-5610, ext. 208, or sarah.pederson @wsu.edu.

Did you know you don’t have to have a horse to join Back Country Horsemen? If you use a trail to walk, hike or cycle, you may want to consider joining to help out with trail building and maintenance.

I was actually at the fairgrounds on Saturday, Aug. 8, because I volunteered to help at the BCH Buckhorn Range Chapter’s informational booth alongside member and trail warrior Bob Hoyle. Before I say more, I want to make clear I’m equally supportive of our three local chapters: Buckhorn Range, Peninsula and Mt. Olympus.

That aside, Hoyle has performed a monumental amount of work in building, repairing and maintaining trails. Most recently, he worked with others to clear trails up, around and in the LaBar Horse Camp near Shelton. This, in addition to running his landscape business. He’s been doing trail work for decades and, no surprise, the man is getting tired. He would really appreciate having younger trail warriors to help him out.

On that Saturday, however, Hoyle was more concerned with an adverse change made to the Olympic National Forest’s signage at the LaBar Horse Camp.

“There used to be a sign telling others it’s a horse camp. Stock use only. Now the sign just says ‘camping,’ like it’s open for everyone,” Hoyle said. “So instead of saying it’s a horse camp, they are now saying it’s an ordinary campsite that is sometimes used by horse people — and we need to push back!”

Located in the Hood Canal Ranger district off Forest Service Road 2353, LaBar is one of only two horse camps in the Olympic National Forest (the other is Mt. Muller, located west of Lake Crescent) and the only one in Jefferson County. Both were built by horsemen, for horsemen, and are the only two ONF campgrounds on the Peninsula that allow camping with a truck, trailer and horses.

Hoyle has reason to be upset. This isn’t the first time ONF has opened horse camps to everyone, meaning those without stock. He remembers camping with horses nearby at the Brown Creek Campground until “we got booted out and then were told we could build another one at LaBar.”

Other longtime members have similar stories to share.

Worse yet, he’s found it difficult to find someone who works for ONF to complain to now that the Quilcene Ranger station has closed.

“We used to talk with and work with the local rangers, but now the offices are closed; they’re shut down,” Hoyle said. “So there’s no one to go in and physically talk to. And if you call, you’re getting a recording. So, I don’t know who to contact or talk to anymore.”

That’s when I spied State Rep. Mike Chapman strolling by. I knew from past conversations he is pro multi-use trails that includes horses.

“Hi Mike Chapman,” I sang out. “We’ve got a question for you.”

“Hi Karen,” he responded after a quick glance at my name tag. With all the people he meets and greets every week, I didn’t expect him to remember my name. After Hoyle explained the problem, he suggested contacting the Olympic Peninsula’s U.S. Representative, Derek Kilmer, since he received The Great American Outdoor Grant, a nearly $3 million grant that includes funding the backlog of maintenance work needed in ONF and other public lands.

He reckoned the best way to contact Kilmer was probably by emailing his executive assistant, Andrea Roper, at andrea.roper@mail.house.gov.

Sadly, keeping trails and camps open to horses is an ongoing issue. One reason is because it’s city folk on the committees making the decisions.

Miller Peninsula has long been a favorite place to ride, and we are worried we’ll be pushed out as the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission moves closer to developing a long-range plan for what they termed in an June 29 memo “a 2,800-acre undeveloped park.”

They’d like to turn it into a destination park for tourists — including a lodge and large camping pads for RVs.

Well, there goes the neighborhood, right? Naturally, we clued Chapman in to our concerns over Miller Peninsula’s forthcoming master plan.

“I’ve talked to some folks who were concerned about a big lodge possibly going there, and big RV pads,” he said. “They asked what I think the state’s position is going to be. I’d say it’s going to continue to include trails and horses, and, at most, 10 camping sites. But not the big lodge or a lot of places for large RVs to park, because that amount of traffic in there wouldn’t work.”

Referring to the Back Country Horsemen, he said: “You guys have built so many of the trails there, and we’ve got to respect that.”

I reminded him it was Back Country Horsemen who worked to put in the large parking lot that included ample horse trailer parking, a ramp for those with disabilities to be able to easily get on a horse and a vault toilet.

“The state is going through a budget process,” Chapman explained. “But changes won’t include a lodge or eating area because that would take away from local businesses, and we can’t have an army of traffic coming off the highway. The area can’t handle it and the locals who live on Diamond Point want their homes to stay quiet.”

To comment on future planning for Miller Peninsula, email planning@parks.wa.gov; mail P.O. Box 4250, Olympia, WA 98504 or phone 360-902-8656.

As Chapman went on to peruse the aisles, I took a break to take a few pictures of the 4-H youths competing in barrel racing and pole bending.

In the 20-plus years I’ve been taking pictures of the gaming events, I’ve never understood why 4-H rules demand a white line of powder be placed at the start/finish line. It makes no sense to the horses or the riders, because, in gaming events such as Figure 8 and Keyhole, the horses are taught to never touch the white line with their hooves because they will be disqualified. And I can attest to a trained gaming horse enjoying the feeling of a job well done that comes with a good fast and clean run.

Hence, almost every horse competing in 4-H games will try to leap over the white line as they start and finish the run. It’s almost comical, yet sad, because the games are timed events and leaping over the line makes for longer run times.

Arriving back at the booth, I found Hoyle and Chapman continuing the discussion about Miller Peninsula with Buckhorn Range member and Jefferson County Assessor Jeff Chapman.

“My ongoing focus is preserving the land we’ve all used and enjoyed for future generations,” Mike Chapman said. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.” To which Jeff Chapman and Hoyle heartily agreed.

Prize ride

On Saturday, Sept. 10, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., join the BCH Peninsula Chapter’s Olympic Spirit Prize Ride at Layton Hill Horse Camp, just east of Sequim at 2514 Chicken Coop Road.

Top prize is a $300 Visa gift card. For $30, you get to ride a three-hour, 8-mile scenic loop along with four raffle tickets.

Don’t want to ride but want a chance to earn a prize? Just pay the $30 for the four raffle tickets online, but to win, you must be at the camp in person for the 3 p.m. drawing.

Riding the trail has some rocky areas, so your horse will need to wear shoes or hoof boots.

Lunch is $10 and is a fundraiser for Ranahan Pony Club.

Dry camping is also available.

Register online at Calendar — Peninsula Chapter — Back Country Horsemen of Washington (pbchw.org)

For more information, contact Kim Merrick at eloise55@gmail.com or 253-261-6188.

________

Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears the second and fourth Saturday of each month.

If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at kbg@olympus.net at least two weeks in advance. You can also call her at 360-460-6299.

Cassie Moore’s horse Louis jumps over the white line at the start of her pole bending run during the 4-H games show (as an adult in the Open class) at the Jeffco Fair on Aug. 8. 4-H horse rules dictate a white line be placed at the start/finish line which often confuses the horse. (Karen Griffiths/For Peninsula Daily News)

Cassie Moore’s horse Louis jumps over the white line at the start of her pole bending run during the 4-H games show (as an adult in the Open class) at the Jeffco Fair on Aug. 8. 4-H horse rules dictate a white line be placed at the start/finish line which often confuses the horse. (Karen Griffiths/For Peninsula Daily News)

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