The St. Landry Parish Council Public Works Committee voted Monday to hold a public hearing on trail rides on Wednesday, Feb. 16 at 5:45 p.m., before the regularly-scheduled parish council meeting.
The hearing is to give the public the opportunity to speak out on trail rides, for and against, in the 15 minutes scheduled.
The issue resurfaced two months ago, when the council voted 5-2 to ban the Step-N-Strut Trail Ride following a public complaint.
An attorney for Step N Strut attended last month’s meeting, questioning the decision and asking the council to reconsider its decision.
Council Attorney Andrea West met with Step-N-Strut attorney Pride Doran and reported to the council.
“We didn’t agree to say the least, but their main concern was that they weren’t notified that you all were going to take action, so they want to be able to come to a public hearing and discuss their side of the story,” West said.
West noted several potentially prickly legal problems in the council’s decision, including the fact that the council amended the agenda to ban Step N Strut, thus giving no prior notice.
She also noted that in the most recent revision of the parish trail ride ordinance, no appeals process was established.
She said there should also be a system in place for the council to receive trail ride complaints, with a deadline set before the trail ride’s deposit is refunded.
In what may be a taste of what’s in store Wednesday, the council heard from Dorothy Wyble, a resident of Highway 31.
Wyble said that a riderless horse came running down her driveway chased by several men, while her grandchildren were playing outside. Then, a participant urinated in her yard, right in front of her family.
“They’re in our yard, in our pasture, and they do whatever they please,” Wyble said.
West suggested holding the public meeting, first, then revising the trail ride ordinance to take any findings into account.
Sheriff Bobby J. Guidroz said he will present any complaints he has to the council at the public hearing.
“If I have complaints, I will furnish you will all the information you need to make the best decision possible,” Guidroz told the council.
Guidroz said that while he supports trail rides, his office is limited in its ability to control huge trail rides.
“I’m a horse rider, a horse lover and a horse owner. I want to make it clear: I’m not against trail rides, but I am for protecting and serving the people,” Guidroz said, adding, “I’m not here to take away Step-N-Strut’s enjoyment, they bring a significant amount of money into the parish. But let’s face it, we’ve had problems and it’s my job as sheriff to maintain the peace and order.”
Councilman Hurlin Dupre agreed that large trail rides can get out of hand. “When you’ve got that many, you cannot police them. The ones I’ve been on, they just go crazy.”
Councilmember Pam Gautreau suggested lowering the maximum number of riders to 250, except for Mardi Gras runs, but Councilman Ronald Buschell said that lowering the number is meaningless unless it can be enforced.
Councilman Jerry Red, Jr. said that any restriction to trail rides would have to apply to the Mardi Gras runs as well.
“If we allow the Mardi Gras to have a ride; we just approved the Eunice Mardi Gras, which has 800 riders also, but we can’t approve one and not allow others; that’s being hypocritical,” Red said, adding, “This is a cultural event on both sides. We can’t say we’re going to allow some to go on with 800 riders and then others they can only have 250 riders. I don’t think that would be fair.”