April 23, 2014


No horsing around

HINCKLEY TWP. — Some township equestrians say Cleveland Metroparks rangers have been ticketing riders for using certain bridle trails that have existed for decades.

However, Metroparks officials say the paths are “bootleg trails,” unofficial ones that weren’t supposed to be used in the first place. They say the horses can hurt local plants, animals and waterways if they don’t keep to the park-sanctioned trails.

There are still about nine miles of official bridle trails in the Hinckley Reservation, which is part of the Cleveland Metroparks

A local group of residents has banded together to petition the Metroparks and government officials to allow use of the 30 to 40 miles of “bootleg trails” throughout the Hinckley Reservation.

They say many of the residents in the area moved there so they could ride their horses close to their property.

“This is like horse central, and they said we don’t have anymore trails,” said Vivian Stefanchik, a Kellogg Road resident.
“Somehow we’ve got to solve this and I don’t know what to do.”

“What we want to happen is for them to reason with us and give us our horse trails back and have talks of what they want from us,” said a Stony Hill Road resident who didn’t want to be identified.

Dick Kerber, director of planning design and natural resources for the Cleveland Metroparks, said it’s always been against Metroparks rules to use the unsanctioned trails.

“For a while, when the numbers (of horse riders) were smaller, the impacts weren’t too great. It was kind of tolerable,” he said. But he said the number of equestrians has been growing as people moved farther south from the Cleveland area.

Plus, Kerber said, Hinckley is one of the “richest areas for plants and animals” in the Metroparks. He said the horses can trample the indigenous plants, some of which can’t be found in other parts of the region. They also can cause erosion that sends contaminants into the nearby Rocky River.

In addition, Kerber said the many trails cut the park into sections “like a jigsaw puzzle and it becomes tougher for the wildlife to move around.”

He said hikers, ATV riders and bikers have caused problems in other areas of the Metroparks and have been cited for going into protected areas. However, he said, the horse problem is specific to Hinckley.

He said parkland is a limited resource in Northeast Ohio.

“With the property we have we unfortunately can’t permit horses, hikers or bikers just to go anywhere they want to any given day. They would just end up destroying the resources we’re here to protect,” Kerber said.

However, the group of Hinckley equestrians has consulted with Kentucky-based Equestrian Land Conservation Resource, which specializes in making more sustainable trails.

“Horses don’t damage anything,” Mattingly Road resident Loretta Kremser said.

Equestrian Land Conservation Resource knows “how to build really good environmental, natural trails in the woods that aren’t going to harm anything.”

Plus, she said, there are paths that are easier on the horses than what the Metroparks provide.

Kremser said horses don’t like most of the official bridle trails in Hinckley, including an approximately 8-mile path that runs through much of the park and is made mostly of rock. Kremser said the rock splits the horses’ hooves and strains their tendons. Also, the wide path sparks the horses’ flight instincts.

“That looks like a field to them. They stand and they want to take off,” Kremser said.

Stefanchik said her horse tries desperately to avoid that trail and walk on the softer, wooded grounds nearby.

Kerber said the Metroparks upgraded that trail years ago at the request of horse riders who wanted wider, harder trails.

“What we’re trying to do is have some of both” the harder and softer trails, he said.

He said the Metroparks is looking to find areas where trails can be built in the Hinckley Reservation.

“One of the things that the horse riders tell us is that it just gets boring riding the same six or eight miles. We’re looking if we can find some additional areas where we can add some mileage to the horse trail system that would not be in the sensitive areas,” he said.

In the meantime, the group of Hinckley equestrians also is sending a letter to Metroparks officials, explaining their frustrations and asking to use the trails once again.

The group also has asked Medina County commissioners for their support.

Commissioner Steve Hambley said Metroparks officials will be coming to an upcoming meeting to explain the situation in Hinckley.

Contact Maria Kacik Kula at (330) 721-4049 or mkacik@medina-gazette.com.

  • cman

    What we want to happen is for them to reason with us and give us our horse trails back
    glad to see that the man is hasseling the horse people for a cahnge – just try riding you bike out in these woods – the horse clowns think its their personal property

    “Horses don’t damage anything,” there are studies that show that horses are worse than bikes, walking etc on the trails – duh!

  • ledgehollow

    A rersponse to chris, You have many beautiful bike trails to ride on, many were taken away from the riders and blacktopped to bikes and hikers, the rail spur across the middle of the county was originally supposed to be for the land locked horse owners hemmed in by developments. Quit complaining, if you were ever on a horse and had a unknowledgeable or uncaring biker ride up behind a horse you would understand how fast that can translate in a serious trip to the hospital. As far as “No Horsing around” The ppeople quoted are a minority. Most riders who use the trails are happy as can be that the park has maintained the trails as well as they have. There was a time when the park superintendents goal was to keep all horses out of the park (that was many years ago and a VERY scarey time for us ) We understand that this is a very political issue and between the trail riders and the eco people. We are happy to have our trails we wish we could keep our old (Bootleg) trails which the locals have ridden on since before the park even owned the land. However this is a new day and we understand that things change we are pleased that Mr. Kerber is trying to expand the trails and loop trails so that the rides are continuous and don’t just dead end, turn around and go back. They have been listening to us and we appreciate it. We have some of the best trails in the state and that is why we have attracted so many more riders. We would just say to all those reading this article that the park system , Seargent Jeremy, and Elliot have been very understanding and helpfull. Forget about the few negative riders who have very limited training or experience.As long as they talk to the experienced riders and equine professionals they will know what changes will benefit most riders from beginners to advanced and they will know we are on the same side. Maintaining a beautiful and safe trail sytem for all equestrians. For every one rider who complains there are a hundred that are happy as clams! We can supply a list is you like.

  • cadonovan

    I have ridden in the Rocky River Reservation for the past 16 years and am relatively new to the Hinckley Reservation. I have only ridden these trails for 7 months now and have been pleasantly surprised by how well the trails are maintained and how many trails and options we have available to us in this area.

    Several weeks ago, I was riding with a group of friends, when we came across a tree that blocked our path. We contacted the rangers from a cell phone and within 15 minutes a crew was dispatched to clear the trail.

    The rangers have always been friendly and helpful. They even sponsored an open house in the Spring.

    I would not want to put my horse in a position where they could get hurt off trail just because I was a little “bored” with a main trail.

    There are always a few riders in every reservation who like to “hot rod”, ride off trail and ” showboat” whenever they get the chance. These are the same people who have little respect for the safety of the people they ride with and the trails that they say they are trying to protect. We avoid them.

  • normal83

    Person #1 & 3) You are clueless about horses. We are asking for the same trails that have been in use for over 100 yrs., not new ones. Also, they don’t have rubber feet, and they’re not meant to travel on solid rock for miles, esp, trot and canter, which you obviously don’t know how to do, respectively. Also, you obviously haven’t attended any of Metroparks meetings at Hinckley, or Board Meetings at the Zoo. Avoid us and go back to Rocky River, safety first!! #2) You and the other New Boarding Barns are the Root cause of our horse trail closures!! You are opportunists that knew we had horse trail problems, didn’t take the time to offer any help or cash to Metroparks to improve our trails, took in more users of these trails, and expected Metroparks to just accomodate all these extra equestrians. AND FURTHERMORE, NONE OF YOU EVEN PAY THE TAXES TO USE HINCKLEY RESERVATION!! IT’S NO WONDER THE RIDERS IN YOUR “NEW BARN” DON’T KNOW HOW TO TRAIL RIDE, SINCE YOU, THE OWNER, DOESN’T EITHER!! YOUR HUGE HORSE HAS DUMPED YOU SO MANY TIMES ON TRAILS WITH US, THAT WE WERE WORRIED THAT YOU’D BECOME A QUADRAPELEGIC!! THIS IS NO JOKE!! YOU DIDN’T EVEN PUNISH HIM!!! GOD CREATED HORSES AS OUTSIDE TRAVELING CREATURES, NOT MEANT TO BE RIDDEN IN AN INSIDE RING. THEY HATE IT!!! HE ALSO CREATED THEM TO WALK, TROT, CANTER, GAIT, GALLOP, ETC. NOT DANCE!!! Horses naturally move on Natural Trails, DOES ANYONE EVEN KNOW THIS??? HELLO!!! If you don’t know how to trail ride your horse, YOU DON’T BELONG ON PUBLIC TRAILS!!! Use the trails at your boarding barns to learn!! METROPARKS DOESN’T GIVE TRAIL RIDING LESSONS ANYMORE!!! AND IF YOU’RE AFRAID TO RIDE YOUR HORSE, THEN YOU DON’T BELONG OWNING ONE!!! PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. AND IF YOUR BOARDING BARN DOESN’T HAVE TRAILS FOR YOU TO LEARN ON, THEN THEY DON’T BELONG “ON THE PARK!!!!” METROPARKS IS MAD BECAUSE OF YOU ALL, AND YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!!! STOP BLAMING US “EXTREMELY ADVANCED” TRAIL RIDERS, WHO DON’T TAKE OUR HORSES TO EXERCISE ONLY 1X/WEEK!! YOU SHOULD BE HELPING OUR SITUATION, NOT HURTING IT!!! YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELVES FOR GIVING HORSES AND HORSEPEOPLE A BAD NAME!!!

  • cman

    blah, blah, blah….sounds like every horse person i know blabbering blowhard know it all lol