Editorial: Let the ponies swim at Southold’s Cedar Beach

In what seems like a never-ending quest to ban anything and everything on the North Fork — helicopter noise, week-long home rentals to out-of-towners, even leaf blowers — a small group of residents has taken on a new target: horses.

Last week, Suffolk County responded to their complaints by shutting down a weekly gathering of horse enthusiasts who ride on county-owned Cedar Beach in Southold. During the Pony Swim, as it came to be known, as many as 30 participants would ride the majestic animals during off-peak times. The horses would take a dip in the water, cooling off on a warm summer evening. To the riders, who took care to pick up after their horses, it seemed like something other people looked forward to watching.

[Photos: ‘Pony Swim’ takes a dip at Cedar Beach]

“People would ask, ‘When’s the next Pony Swim?’ ” said Samantha Perry, who’s organizing an effort to now allow horse riding at Cedar Beach.

As it stands now, horses can be ridden in certain designated parks — and at only one county-owned beach, Smith Point County Park on the South Shore. And horses are only allowed there Nov. 1 through May 1.

It seems reasonable enough to ask the county to provide more options for horse enthusiasts. Cedar Beach already works as an easily accessible destination for horse riders on the North Fork. Designating a small window within which horses could be allowed on the beach, provided the riders follow any set rules, makes sense.

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell agreed to contact the county and said establishing specific times for horse riding is “a common-sense solution.”

The argument that horses can have a detrimental impact on the water quality in Peconic Bay, as some have suggested, seems a stretch at best. If we were to create a list of the greatest threats to Peconic Bay, the occasional horse dropping would rank low on the list.

One proponent of the Pony Swim, who lives less than two miles from Cedar Beach, pointed out the hypocrisy in all the fertilizer used to maintain green lawns on properties near the beach.

For those concerned about the environment, controlling the use of fertilizers is a good starting point.

In a bygone era, horses trotted down Main Road just as frequently as along any beach. Those days have long since passed, but let’s not shun horses altogether.