PENINSULA HORSEPLAY: Learn how to hike, bike or motor near horses

“WELL, SURPRISE, SURPRISE, surprise!” I’m hearing Gomer Pyle’s catch phrase from the 1960s Andy Griffith TV show going through my head when thinking of the past few weeks’ surprisingly freezing cold, blustery and snowy weather.

In the 25 years I’ve lived in Sequim, I don’t recall the end of October and first two weeks of November ever being so cold, let alone snowing! Wasn’t that a wild and crazy windstorm on Friday night, Nov. 4? So many of us were without power — some for several days — due to downed trees falling on power lines and transformer boxes.

My immediate neighbors and I experienced a flicking off and on of power, but thankfully we were never without. We have our own wells for water, so when the power goes out, water doesn’t get pumped up from the well and into the house. That means no running water to flush toilets, to drink or to wash anything. So when a big storm is predicted, I try to prepare for a power outage by filling my bathtub with fresh water (after cleaning it) so I can use the water flush a toilet, water to cook with, etc. I also make sure my dog’s water bowls and the two horse water troughs are full (although I also have rainwater from a metal roof’s gutter flow into the largest one, and that gutter especially I make sure to clean each year.) Filling the toilet has alleviated the frustration of not being able to flush in past outages.

Mending Miller

I’ve got an important correction to make on my Oct. 22 column about the Washington State Parks Miller Peninsula Open House held at the 7 Cedars Hotel on Oct. 18. I mistakenly attributed a quote to Back Country Horsemen’s Peninsula Chapter member to Linda Morin, when it was actually Sara Campbell, a Facebook member of Olympic Peninsula Riders, who said in part, “I haven’t heard anything about equestrians having access to that new park … it feels a little bit like the parks department looked around the state and saw this beautiful jewel that we built and now want to take away from the local community.”

Linda Morin actually said as a BCH member her main concern is keeping the trails open to equestrians. She feels the educational work the organization performs to show all trail users — be it hikers, bicyclists, runners, etc. — ways to be a responsible trail user through programs such as Leave No Trace, as well as how to share the trail with others. She spoke on the 3S program — Stop, Stand Downhill and Speak — to use when encountering stock animals on trails.

When encountering a horse or other stock on the trail always stop moving forward. Step to the downhill side and stand. Then speak in a calm and friendly tone of voice the horse can hear (a nice “hello” works well) and if the horse seems nervous over something you’re holding or wearing (such as a backpack that extends above your head) considering removing it or setting it down until the horse passes by.

The program reminds users to:

• Yield the right of way to those passing from behind or traveling uphill.

• Motorized vehicles yield to bicyclists, hikers, runners and horses.

• Bicyclists yield to hikers, runners and horses.

• Hikers, runners and cyclists yield to horses (Because a horse’s natural instinct of fright=flight can cause mishaps and accidents for the horse and rider).

She said she understood the park commission’s need to make the park accessible, attractive and inviting to all those living in Washington state, and how she would “hate to lose the property” if the park’s plans don’t move forward and the property is sold. She requested whichever plan they decide to use to keep it manageable so that “we can continue to educate the new people that come in to these practices to have courtesy and respect for all people sharing this destination, and to spread the educational work to others, because that’s the way to increase good use of our state parks amongst all non-motorized user groups.”

After the meeting ended, Morin was interviewed by Olympic News Group editor and reporter Michael Dashiell who quoted her as saying “We have a wonderful rapport with the state; we really want that to continue.”

For more information about the 3S program, visit the chapter’s website www.pbch.org and click on the trail education link.

Not natural

Buckhorn Range Chapter’s Jeff Chapman was upset I wrongly attributed the quote to someone representing local BCH. He emailed me:

It bothers me that the anti-Miller groups are now using your article to represent an equestrian position that many of us [in BCH] don’t share. Particularly since they are now wanting the entire areas to be classified as “Natural” (a 4th Alternative) in the State Parks Classification system (CAMP). Currently, the Three State Parks “Natural” classifications only allow “low impact” recreation, which is foot only.

Any area that allows bikes and horses is zoned as Recreation, Resource Recreation or Heritage (like at Sequim Bay SP). There are some specific high-profile trail exceptions in CAMP plans, but they are few and far between across the state. “Natural” generally refers to highly sensitive habitat. The DNR equivalent are NAPs and NRCAs, such as the Dabob Bay NRCA. Horses and bicycles are not allowed there.

He wrote, keeping trails open to horses is our main concern. The anti-development coalition is asking their mailing list to write our legislators right now and ask that Miller be all classified as a Natural Area. That list includes equestrians (I’m on it). I’m not sure how many of those folks understand what a State Natural Area designation means for horses and bicycles.

A full Natural Area Alternative, which may be a legitimate non-development option (though more for DNR/DFW than State Parks) would be problematic for equestrians. The fact is horses and bikes are typically considered as developed area uses (Resource Recreation or Recreation).

At the very least, we want all the trails to be in a “Resource Recreation” zone with maybe a 30-foot- buffer (spaghetti zoning) and the parking lot in a “Recreation” zone with some growth accommodation. We are indeed backing into an Alternative 4 discussion which is moving to the Legislature. Another way to approach it is to ask the Legislature to fund the $650,000 for the EIS/Master Plan, but with a Fourth Day-Use Only Alternative. Yes, there is a No Change Alternative, but that is always in EIS processes, and I’ve never seen one selected. But our focus is keeping all the trails open to horses (and bikes by joint agreement and by working with State Parks).

What we do worry about is that certain levels of development with out-of-area visitors will ultimately lead to conflicts, which would lead to closed trails to equestrians. This could particularly be true for the beach access trail, as it was for the USFWS Dungeness Spit where we equestrians were eventually kicked off the beach access trail to the Spit when the volume of visitors increased.

Since I work with State Parks with other areas, including the massive cross-state trails system, I realize that they do have a purpose to serve statewide visitor needs. Sometimes this does create a struggle between what local communities want and a known demand for expanding camp unit capacity for visitors. The real solution probably means different agencies in the Blyn area determining the best solution to address capacity needs. Up to half the trails that equestrians use at Miller aren’t on State Parks property but are on Jamestown Tribe property and even some private lands. Some of the trail users may not realize this, thinking State Parks manages all of them.

Summary

A statement released by the WSP after the Open House, titled Project Status of Miller Peninsula Oct. 2022, summarized where the project stands at this time:

Project is paused until funding for master planning and an environmental impact statement is made available. Possible next steps: If funding is made available in the 2023-25 biennium, development of a master plan and EIS would begin, allowing designers and public to further collaborate on the most appropriate new features for Miller Peninsula.

State Parks will update the website when decisions about funding are made. We anticipate having a better idea regarding funding by April 2023. For more information, go to https://www.parks.wa.gov/1187/Miller-Peninsula-Planning.

________

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.

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