SB251, if modified, could ease restrictions against recreational horse carriage driving

Put your name on the ballot

To the Editor:

We are again approaching the sign-up period from Jan. 22-31 to run for elected office.

I encourage anyone who feels they have something constructive to say about how the town or schools are or should be run to sign up.

For the last several years, we have had what I’ll call “default elections” – two seats open and only two names on the ballot … just sign up and take a seat. Not to demean the people who stepped forward, they did what they were supposed to do, but the residents of Bedford are not necessarily served well if there is no choice of candidates, positions and philosophy. This is how “special interests” gain control. Unhappy with the budgets?

The Bedford Mens Club has traditionally hosted a candidates “debate,” an opportunity for those running for elected office, usually the Town Council or School Board, to meet together and offer their opinions and positions to questions posed to them. Lately, without more candidates than seats, the Mens Club has not had the need for the debate. That’s unfortunate; voters may not get another opportunity to hear the candidates’ positions, but more importantly, we do not see how they react and interact as part of a group to other positions.

Occasionally, there are letters in the local papers from residents who disagree with the decisions/positions taken by the council or School Board; they might consider stepping forward to offer their service and point(s) of view as an elected official.

Quite often, the Bedford Patch contains blogs many signed with pseudonyms by presumably Bedford residents who are rather vocal (and critical) in their difference of opinions with what either the Town Council or School Board or individual members have said or decided.

I’d encourage these individuals to come out from behind your laptop and offer yourselves for a seat on an elected body. The time spent writing could be more effectively spent making your case as a member of the Town Council or School Board. You might have the prevailing argument and benefit all of us.

Please give strong consideration to signing up for the open elected positions and running for election. I have decided not to seek a third term on the council, but hope to see your name on the March ballot. Please be part of the solutions.

BILL DERMODY

Bedford town councilor

Modify SB251 to allow horse carriages

To the Editor:

In the state of “Live free or die,” some folks are being denied recreational opportunities on New Hampshire state lands. Current New Hampshire law bars anyone wishing to drive a carriage, be it for recreational or therapeutic purposes or due to age or physical disability, from the simple and quiet enjoyment of driving a horse or pony through New Hampshire’s state parks, forests and rail trails.

Lawmakers have an immediate opportunity to correct these restrictions, with their upcoming consideration of SB 251. SB 251, being introduced this week, would give logical treatment to horseback riders; however, the wording of SB251 needs to be changed to specify “equine users,” so that it does not continue to omit equine carriage drivers.

How has this restriction happened?

The above-mentioned citizens of New Hampshire, although fewer in number than many other types of trail users, are not included as recognized users of New Hampshire’s trail system.

RSA216-F:2 enumerates that “The trails within the system shall be held, developed and administered under this chapter primarily as recreational trails for hiking, nature walks, bird watching, horseback RIDING [emphasis added]. bicycling, ski touring, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, mushing, and off highway recreational vehicles.” Therefore, equine-drawn vehicles are disallowed.

Carriage drivers believe that this omission of our recreational activity was an inadvertent oversight. We believe the laws were intended to accommodate all horse (equine) use and it simply didn’t occur to the lawmakers at the time to specifically include horse carriages.

Although carriage drivers are a minority of equine users, our activity is exceedingly important to the quality of life in our state! Equine carriage drivers are scattered across New Hampshire. The Granite State Carriage Association was founded in 1978 for the purpose of promoting equine-driven activities, especially recreational driving. We are joined with horseback riders as having the same interests and concerns regarding equine use for recreation.

Back in the days when there were many dirt roads and woods trails usable by carriages, the issue of state lands use was not a huge concern.

As dirt roads have been paved, the population density and motorized traffic has increased, making carriage driving on public roads a safety hazard to all. The general public’s knowledge and awareness of horses has also changed with time – we now live in a hurried world where many of us have grown out of touch with our roots.

The attitude of many people today – on automobile roads and on trails – is “get out of my way you slow-moving vehicle!” Carriage folks sorely need safer places to drive, and the many miles of roads and trails within New Hampshire’s public trail system meet that need.

As other types of “recreational vehicle” use has increased, literally thousands of miles of long, level, wider trails have been made available by the state for motorized OHRV use and trail bikes.

During this process, many trails have been gated, which prevents carriage drivers from accessing them. People need to be reminded that horses pulling carriages and wagons were using roads and woods trails – and enabling the very building of railroads – long before motor vehicles existed. That horses pulling carriages are no longer permitted on public lands is unjust.

As equine owners and users, we support SB 251, however as carriage drivers we hope to prevail upon the legislature’s – and New Hampshire citizens’ – belief in fairness and equitable treatment, and to effect a minor change in the language of SB251 to name “equine users” instead of “horseback riders”, and thereby ENACT SB 251 for ALL “equine users.”

Please contact your state Senators immediately regarding SB251, especially Sen. Andy Sanborn, sponsor, Sen. David Boutin, supporter, and all Senators who serve on the “Executive Departments and Administration” Committee where SB251 goes for initial review.

No matter whether you own or use horses yourself or simply delight in the beauty of a horse, if you believe in fairness of the laws, or visualize a more serene and peaceful time, free of motorized and machine disturbances, please help this worthy cause in any way possible.

Connie Moses

President, Granite State Carriage Association