News / Calgary

Park ponies: City of Calgary floats horseback riding to see what citizens think

Parks survey will ask Calgarians what they think about seeing the city from a saddle

A horse grazes in a snowy field near Bragg Creek. Calgary is asking citizens if they would welcome horses into certain city parks under the right conditions.

ADRIAN WYLD / CP

A horse grazes in a snowy field near Bragg Creek. Calgary is asking citizens if they would welcome horses into certain city parks under the right conditions.

The city doesn't allow horsing around in its green spaces just yet.

But it is floating the idea of allowing horseback riding in designated park areas. Although they don't seem confident about residents appetite for sugar-cube munchers in urban pastures, it's an exciting idea for the horsey set.

Calgary hasn't updated its parks and pathway bylaw in nearly 15 years. And with a revamp in the works, the city is asking citizens what they would and wouldn't like to see in their public green spaces.

Some of the questions the city's trotting out are unorthodox – like the one about horses.

"It's a feasible thing if it's managed properly," said stable owner Monica Culic. "Anything can be done in this world, but safety is always the number one factor, in my opinion."

Culic wouldn't haul her horse to a city park herself, but could see a rule change working for someone with stables closer to town. She's been riding for 27 years and said the industry has changed a lot.

Because of the city's rapid expansion in suburban areas, many of the Stampede town's stables and horse barns have been sold to developers.

Most park activity is allowed if you ask for permission through a permit. For example, the city doesn't allow Segways on city pathways, but there is a regular tour each summer that's been approved for operation by the parks director.

"There are new technologies, new things that happen, people's perceptions change," Nico Bernard, a city spokesman said. "If we notice there's a lot of interest, maybe we need to do an overhaul on that specific item."

But despite enthusiasm from horseback riders, there are some serious questions about trotting out horses in city parks.

"As a rider I would desperately want it to work, but as a cyclist I think it wouldn’t," said Jennifer Van Doorn, another horse owner. "Bikes just move too fast and the vast majority of horses won’t be okay with the speeds of cyclists, plus rollerbladers, and uncontrolled dogs. This may be Cowtown, but I don’t think it will work long term, which is a shame."

Bernard said the appetite for horseback riding has changed over the years as the city gets more urban, and there aren't a lot of riding options within the city's limits.

"It's probably something we won't change," said Bernard, pointing out horseback riding isn't permitted by the bylaw. "There might be more natural areas, where there's grasslands, that might be more appropriate and maybe we could look at designating some parks for that activity – if there's enough interest."

Park possibilities:

The city is looking into allowing other park and pathway rule changes. The survey, which will be online until Feb. 28, floats ideas on how the city's green spaces could shift if there's appetite.

- Picking fruits or weeds

Currently, the City of Calgary doesn't allow citizens to pick fruit or weeds in public parks because they want to leave food for the critters. But, if citizens want, they could change the rules and pick a new rule.

- Tobogganing anywhere

In Calgary, there are only 18 sanctioned hills where tobogganing is legal. It's a rule that has drawn public criticism and ridicule.

- Protests and gatherings

According to the city's bylaws, it's illegal to take part in any procession, drill, performance, ceremony, concert or public gathering; or do anything that's likely to attract a crowd.

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