County council OKs horses on Birch Bay Drive

Published on Thu, Jun 2, 2011 by Jeremy Schwartz

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Horse-drawn carriages could soon become a common sight on Birch Bay Drive now that Whatcom County Council has changed an ordinance allowing their presence year-round.

County council voted 6-0 in favor, with council member Tony Larson absent, at their May 24 regular council meeting. The move will allow horse-drawn carriages on the stretch of Birch Bay Drive between Alderson and Harborview roads. Birch Bay Drive was the only county road on which horses were banned.

Previously, horse-drawn carriages were allowed on the drive between Point Whitehorn and Shintaffer, but were prohibited between May 1 and September 30. Last summer, county council approved a one-time exemption allowing Mistyfield Carriage Rides owner Roger Edmonds to give tours of Birch Bay aboard his horse-drawn carriage.

Edmonds said county council had no real reason to reject the change to county code allowing horse-drawn carriages on the drive. He said the concerns about his operation last year never materialized, and he did not encounter any problems giving tours.

“We had nothing but people wave at us as we walked down the road,” Edmonds added.

Edmonds will offer $10 carriage tours starting at the C Shop heading north along Birch Bay Drive and back. Edmonds plans to add the Thursday Farmers Market in Birch Bay to his route and may even visit the Blaine gardeners market on Saturdays.

While last summer was the first time he had lead carriage tours, Edmonds said he had been considering the plan since 2007. He was looking for ways to make some extra money to help with the costs of keeping his horse, a 7-year-old Clydesdale named Ally. He had heard from his mother that his hometown in Iowa (on the Mississippi River) had developed an upscale waterfront community, complete with high-end condominiums and carriage rides.

That’s when it hit him: carriage rides would be perfect for Birch Bay. Edmonds’ first attempts at rides during the summer did not go exactly as he had planned. While on his way back from Oregon with his daughter, a driver running a stop sign totaled his unoccupied horse trailer. Forced to borrow horse trailers throughout the summer, Edmonds said he was unable to reliably transport Ally and could only give a handful of carriage tours.  

Before last summer, Edmonds had success giving tours along Birch Bay Drive during winter and early spring.

He said he put at least 100 miles on Ally giving tours, in addition to participating in local events, such as Birch Bay’s Discovery Days.

The county ban on horses on Birch Bay Drive during a summertime was enacted in the 1980s. Residents at the time were upset that riders were not picking up horse droppings, which was thought to be bad for tourism.

Now, though, Edmonds said manure control is standard practice for carriage drivers. Horses pulling carriages are typically equipped with bags that collect manure as the horse and carriage move.