The city that calls itself “Horsetown USA” is up in arms about a proposed state law that it believes could seriously disrupt its way of life.
AB 233, sponsored by Assemblywoman Lori Wilson, D-Suisun City, would require anyone riding a horse to collect and dispose of any waste produced by that animal on a street, sidewalk, or other public property.
That law which would be carried out by a local government agency, would also apply to anyone “otherwise responsible” for a horse besides the person riding it.
In a letter sent to Wilson’s Sacramento office last month, Norco Mayor Robin Grundmeyer explained Norco’s “strong opposition to the bill, which she called an affront not just to Norco’s lifestyle, but to all of California’s.
“Horses have been an integral part of California’s lifestyle and history for hundreds of years,” Grundmeyer declares in the letter, written on stationery bearing the city’s seal. “While our state has evolved and become a metropolis of more than 30 million people, the equestrian lifestyle has remained extremely popular in communities throughout the state.”
She then details Norco’s 59-year history, noting that the town [pop. 26,077] has more than 400 acres of park space and of the largest networks of horse trails of any city in the United States.
“Norco has earned the nickname—which evolved into an official trademark—Horsetown USA,” Grundmeyer writes. “Many of our residents keep horses at their homes and ride through our city and surrounding areas. It is also quite common to see horses… out on our streets and even “driving through” local businesses for a morning coffee.
“Instead of adding regulatory burdens that discourage horsemanship, our state should encourage and support this healthy, environmentally-friendly activity for more Californians.”
Grundmeyer’s letter may have already had an impact: “other public property” will probably be removed from AB 233 because it’s “too vague” and could be misinterpreted, said Alexis Williams, Wilson’s legislative assistant.
The bill, which Wilson introduced Feb. 9, is expected to go before the state assembly’s local government committee later this month, its first appearance before a legislative committee in Sacramento, according to Williams.
The official summary of AB 233 does not mention a penalty if a horseback rider is found not to have cleaned up after the animal.
Judging from the comments attached to the bill’s official summary, Wilson’s proposal is not a popular one.
Only one person defended the bill, calling it “long overdue” because, among other factors, horse manure attracts insects that spread disease.
But other commenters disagreed with that claim, and were overwhelmingly negative. One called Wilson’s proposal “absurd,” and wondered how anyone could be expected to ride a horse while carrying the equipment needed to retrieve and dispose of horse droppings, whatever that might be.
“Don’t you have something more pressing to do?” another poster wrote. “We didn’t vote you into office to discuss horse poop. Take action and vote no.”
Another poster said the bill was “clearly written by someone who doesn’t interact with horses” regularly.
Norco – its slogan is “City Living In a Rural Atmosphere – has been an equestrian-oriented community since it incorporated in 1964, Grundmeyer said.
“Norco is a horse community, and this [potential] law could disrupt that,” Grundmeyer said during a telephone interview. “Norco is pretty unique. There are a few other Southern California communities as dedicated to horses and horseback riding as we are, but not very many.”
Removing the phrase “other public property” from the bill could make it more acceptable, but there are still reasons to be concerned about the proposed legislation’s long-term impact, according to Grundmeyer.
“We have a lot of parades every year, and I don’t know how we would deal with that,” Grundmeyer said.
“And we’re not sure about this being administered through a local agency. I assume that means the city, but I don’t know. It makes me wonder if we would have to Follow @ it.”
Norco’s commitment to horses is unassailable.
The city has equestrian historic district, meaning an area with properties that share a common theme, according to a statement on Norco’s website that deals with the city’s history and zoning practices.
Those practices include equestrian trails with fences, parks with equestrian amenities and large residential lots – typically a half-acre or larger – to allow for keeping horses and other animals.
About 6,000 residential properties are included in the equestrian historic district.
Norco may have more horse trails than any city in the country, but those trails won’t be as enjoyable to use if AB 233 becomes law, said Bonnie Slager, president of the Norco Horsemen’s Association.
“I can’t imagine having to stop and get off your horse to clean up the waste,” said Slager, a Norco resident since 1989 and president of the association for the past six years. “If my horse poops in front of my neighbor’s house I clean it up, but otherwise I don’t worry about, because it’s good fertilizer.”