MANCHESTER — Manchester water commissioners on Thursday enacted restrictions expected to sharply curtail horseback riding on vast portions of the Lake Massabesic watershed owned by Manchester Water Works.
The Board of Water Commissioners voted unanimously on the new restrictions. One horse enthusiast had to be escorted out of the meeting room, after becoming verbally combative with a commissioner. About a dozen other horse enthusiasts showed up at the meeting and sat quietly.
Afterward, they said the restrictions had no scientific justification. And Manchester resident Diane Russell said the "Bun-Bag" waste collection device that Water Works wants horses to wear might work well for Central Park carriage rides, but not on an hours-long trail ride.
"Horses don't respond well to anything behind them. They're a flight animal," Russell said.
The new regulations:
• Allow horses on gravel fire roads, as long as they wear some kind of diaper or waste-collection device.
• Allow horses on nearly all watershed property if part of a commission-approved, organized riding event. Event plans must include immediate removal of horse droppings.
• Prohibit horses in the water or on the shoreline, beaches, boat launches or public parks.
"Horseback riders are still welcome on our land. What we're asking is they take responsibility for the waste," Water Works Director David Paris said.
Water Works officials have said the restrictions are needed because the shallow lake, which is located next to an urban area, is fragile and environmentally vulnerable to nutrients found in animal waste.
And they said a sick horse could contaminate water with pathogens that could force Water Works to spend millions on new treatment equipment. The ozone purification system at the plant does not disinfect for cryptosporidium, an organism that can cause human sickness, Commissioner Kimberley Griswold said.
Water quality, she said, is her only concern.
Horse enthusiast Dorine Remillard, who was told to leave the room, distributed a memo that said horseback riders would be willing to establish a permit-fee system, pay for trail signs, keep parking areas clean and pick up or scatter droppings when safe to do so.
"Within your vast 8,000-acre land holdings, we, the equestrians, are your best stewards," the material said.