Horse groups are raising a stink over the city of Casper’s decision to start charging a fee for equine entries beginning with Tuesday’s Central Wyoming Fair and Rodeo Parade.
City officials say the $5-per-horse entry fee for manure cleanup ensures the city’s streets will be free of doo-doo and the North Platte River clear of the pathogen-heavy waste.
Tom Phillips is the parade chairman for the Casper Lions Club, the group that runs Parade Day. He said horse owners are the only group charged for entry.
The dispute has been ongoing for years, Phillips said.
Horse owners say they are being singled out to pay for cleanup efforts at an event where litter is ubiquitous.
The Wyoming Arabian Horse Association usually enters six or eight horses for the event. This year the club won’t enter any. Members of the group aren’t upset at the $5 fee, said Cleo Waters, secretary of the association. It’s the principle, she said.
“Nobody else is being charged a cleanup fee,” she said. “It doesn’t seem fair, because people throw candy wrappers, fliers and pop cups everywhere.”
Morris Carter, a volunteer with the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center, said the fee is “ridiculous.”
The fee isn’t meant to exclude people from participating, so the city offered to pay the fees for the Wyoming Arabian Horse Association, said Pete Meyers, assistant public services director for the city of Casper.
Horse manure is a very particular kind of waste product, Meyers said. “It smells worse and is a greater threat for polluting the
river,” he said. “It also gums up our street sweepers.”
If the poop were to mix with the water from the street sweepers, there’s a fear that the combination could easily flow into storm drains and into the North Platte River and other groundwater systems. The waste carries pathogens and other bacteria that are hazardous to human health.
The city has pushed to keep its streets, parks and sidewalks free of fecal matter with its Keep Casper Beautiful program and Scoop the Poop initiative.
“It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it,” said Keep Casper Beautiful program coordinator Elizabeth Andress. “We want to leave downtown just as beautiful as it was before the parade.”
The city wanted the Lions Club to ensure that horse waste wouldn’t sit around during and after the parade, Andress said.
If pollution is a concern, what about the antique vehicles and tractors that smoke, backfire and have no emission controls, Waters said.
Parade Day isn’t the only event that has had to change how it manages animal waste.
When a child turned on trough water next to a standing pile of manure during the Central Wyoming Fair a few years back, a concerned citizen called the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality.
The phone call prompted the state DEQ to mandate a $300,000 overhaul to update the drainage systems at the fairgrounds.
Officials say the $5 parade fee is cheaper and will benefit the city’s neediest animals.
Volunteers from Temporary Home Animal Rescue, an animal shelter in Casper, will scoop up the manure during and after Tuesday’s parade. The money collected from the horse entries will be donated to the rescue shelter. The Lions Club will also pay the rescue shelter an additional $150.
Without the entries from the Wyoming Arabian Horse Association, the parade will have six horses from the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center and four others, Phillips said.