Fairfield Considers New Rules For Horses On Beaches

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Horses have been allowed on Fairfield's beaches during the off-season since 2008.
Horses have been allowed on Fairfield's beaches during the off-season since 2008. Photo Credit: A. Davey via Flickr

FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Fairfield is considering adding new rules to help horse riders, dog owners and walkers co-exist at the town’s public beaches during the winter.

“We don’t want to become a problem and have it get canceled because it’s crowded at the beach,” said Joanne Murphy, representing a group of horse owners who ride at Fairfield’s beaches.

Fairfield allows horse riding at its public beaches during the off-season, from Oct. 1 to March 1. It is one of the few public coastlines in Connecticut to permit horses, along with state parks in Groton and Madison.

The town’s parks department also allows dogs on beaches during the same time period, and permits them to run off-leash at Jennings Beach and below the high tide line. Out-of-town visitors also go to Fairfield’s beaches often in the off-season, when parking fees are not collected. As a result, on warm weekends the shore can get crowded, Murphy says.

She recommended a few rules for horse riders to the Parks and Recreation Commission. Some of the rules would be a formal adoption of guidelines already laid out by local riding groups, while others would be new regulations to ease congestion.

Horse riders are already supposed to ride only at low tide and stay below the high tide line except when entering and leaving. They also must clean up after their horses if they leave manure anywhere on the beach or in the parking lot. Horse riding groups also suggest staying 50 feet from dogs and walkers when possible. Murphy asked the commission to formally post these rules online and at the beach.

She also proposed two new rules. One would establish a single entry point to the shore at Penfield Beach to the side of the Jackie Durrell Pavilion. The other would prohibit riding on weekends, when beaches are most popular.

“It’s too crowded, so you can’t really have a good ride anyway,” Murphy said. “I think that would solve a lot of problems.”

The Parks and Recreation Commission heard Murphy’s suggestions at its monthly meeting Wednesday night. It plans to vote on the suggestions before October, because the current off-season ends in five weeks.

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