Horses edge bicyclists in county park vote

It was a battle between fans of bicycles and horses — and the horses won.

Cycling advocates and equestrians went toe to toe at the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday over whether to support a new master plan for Huddart and Wunderlich parks that excludes a mountain bike trail running from the park to Skyline Boulevard.

Bicyclists protested the elimination of the trail from earlier versions of the plan, saying they should have the right to share trail space with horses and their riders. Equestrians, meanwhile, said bikes and horses don’t mix, arguing it was a question of safety.

The parks, which feature a wide variety of horse trails, are used extensively by equestrians. A stable at Huddart Park houses 30 horses.

“I think [the proposed master plan] is a little shortsighted in not including mountain bikers,” Josh Moore, of the biking advocate group Responsible Organized Mountain Peddlers, told supervisors shortly before they unanimously approved the proposal.

Excluding the trail, which would have been the only off-road trail for mountain bikers on the Bay side of the Peninsula, fails to take into account the growing popularity of the sport and its accessibility to people of diverse backgrounds and incomes, advocates said.

Patty Ciesla, executive director of Northern California Mountain Bicycling Association and a Peninsula resident, said she was disappointed the trail was taken out of the master plan and complained that bicyclists had been demonized by equestrians as “recreational terrorists.”

“The fact that all the county parks [on the Bay side] exclude mountain bikes is wrong to me,” said Ciesla, a former equestrian and full-time stable manager, who proposed the trail.

Horse advocates, however, said the master plan itself calls for preserving the equestrian uses at Huddart and Wunderlich parks, the only significant open space in the county where equestrians do not have to compete for space with bicyclists. “The real issue of having the bikers on the trails is safety,” said Al Filice, president of the San Mateo County Horseman’s Association.

Parks and Recreation Department Director Dave Holland has called for a blue ribbon committee to review recreational trail needs of all sorts in the county, following the elimination of the mountain bike trail from the Huddart and Wunderlich master plan.

“I think the biking community deserves a place in this county and we have an obligation to provide that for them, but bikes and horses don’t mix,” Board of Supervisors President Jerry Hill said following approval of the plan.

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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