Officials agree to conduct horse trail study in Oldsmar

After months of refusing to reopen the public horse trails in Mobbly Bayou Preserve, Oldsmar officials agreed on Tuesday to conduct a study to determine the feasibility of having trails in the city.

Fred Orosz speaks before the Oldsmar City Council regarding the horse trail issue on Tuesday, July 19.

Fred Orosz speaks before the Oldsmar City Council regarding the subject of opening horse trail in the city on Tuesday, July 19.

After months of refusing to reopen the horse trails in Mobbly Bayou Preserve despite repeated pleas by advocates of the cause, Oldsmar officials finally relented and agreed to conduct a study regarding the feasibility of having trails in the city.

The decision came after another round of debating the oft-contentious topic during Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, as the issue was addressed for the first time as an official agenda item.

And while officials cautioned the ruling doesn’t guarantee there will ever be public trails in the preserve, advocates consider the fact that the city was willing to look into the issue as a win.

“I’m so excited, I’m beyond words,” Estela Orosz, a longtime supporter of the trails and the sister of Horsepower For Kids owner Armando Gort, told Oldsmar Connect after the meeting.

“I feel that we’re being heard, and I feel that they’re being respectful of us. So I’m hopeful.”

Oldsmar Vice Mayor Eric Seidel.

Oldsmar Vice Mayor Eric Seidel.

The reason for that hope came from one council member recognizing the need to make sure horses continue to play a significant role in a community that historically has prided itself on being very equestrian friendly.

Vice-Mayor Eric Seidel made the motion to add the issue to the agenda during the previous council meeting, and last night he explained the rationale behind the decision.

“Here’s what eats at me,” Seidel said after the council heard comments from nearly a dozen citizens Tuesday. “We passed the ordinance 10 years ago that you can’t ride horses on the streets. And honestly, I understand that.”

“But we have what we call horse country…and you can’t even ride a darn horse anywhere,” he added. “That bothers me. I think we overlook that a little bit.”

Seidel went on to praise the undeniably positive impact horses, and Gort’s nonprofit farm, has had on many children’s lives, and he said he’d like to see the city manager go over the previous agreement and study that was done to find out if it’s still viable today.

“Let’s see if there’s an opportunity,” he said. “There may be, and there may be more disappointment. I don’t know. But I can’t believe that we don’t at least make the effort to try.”

Seidel’s suggestion was met with support from Council member Gabby McGee, but others disagreed with one major aspect of the plan, namely limiting the study to Mobbly Bayou.

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis.

Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis.

“I don’t think the preserve is an ideal location for multiple reasons,” Mayor Doug Bevis said, adding he wouldn’t support a motion to conduct a study focused solely on the preserve.

Council member Jerry Beverland concurred with the mayor, stating he would be open to conducting a study, but only if it was expanded in scope to include the possibility of having horse trails anywhere in town, not just at Mobbly.

“If you make the motion to look some where, I can support that,” Beverland said. “But if you’re going to put it at Mobbly Bay and somewhere, that’s way too broad.”

Ultimately, Council member McGee made a motion to direct staff to conduct a study regarding having horse trails anywhere within the city limits, and the motion passed by a vote of 4-1, with Council member Dan Saracki voicing the lone “nay” vote.

The access area to the horse trails at Mobbly Bayou Preserve located at the end of Racetrack Road.

The access area to the horse trails at Mobbly Bayou Preserve located at the end of Racetrack Road.

Afterwards, Seidel explained his reasons for prompting officials to look further into the issue.

“I think any time you have a large number of people come to the council, it should prompt us to take action on it,” he told Oldsmar Connect following the meeting.

“I think it’s important for us to debate those issues, even if those issues have created some heartache in the past, and try to take a fresh look at it and see if we can get something done when there’s a large group of people who want something done.”

“And I love the idea of kids horseback riding in Oldsmar,” he added. “I think it’s a good thing, and I’d like to see it happen here.”

Horse trail supporter Scott Gengler.

Horse trail supporter Scott Gengler.

Outside the council chambers, a group of horse trail supporters congratulated each other, and one key figure in the ongoing battle shared his feelings about the city’s decision.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction,” Scott Gengler, spokesperson for the informal Citizens for Horses organization, said. “I think we’re still moving forward as we planned, but it’s a process, a long process.

“There’s a lot of criteria that needs to be looked at and a lot of issues that need to be sought after,” he added.

“But I think we’re moving in the right direction as far as getting the eventual outcome of horses continuing to be a staple in this community.”

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