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Pinellas County bans water horses

PALMA SOLA CAUSEWAY – Pinellas County commissioners have banned horses from aquatic preserves in the county, impacting a popular tourism business that also rents horses at Palma Sola causeway in Manatee County.

C Ponies offers rides in an aquatic preserve in Tampa Bay near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Pinellas County, and in Palma Sola Bay and along its narrow causeway beach in Manatee County. Activities include beach rides, water rides and “horse surfing,” standing on horses while they swim. Other horse rental businesses in Pinellas County also are affected.

“We only have one body of water to protect. We only have one planet to save. Once it’s destroyed, it’s destroyed,” said Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long, a former competitive horseback rider.

The commission pinned its 5-1 decision Tuesday on evidence – including aerial photos – that horses trample fragile seagrass in the aquatic preserve, and that horse manure and urine pose a risk to human health.

Citing support for the ordinance from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, the Tampa Bay Estuary Program and the City of St. Petersburg, the commission also prohibited the unpermitted damage of seagrass in aquatic preserves.