Tuesday’s special Town Council meeting seemed to reaffirm the notion that small town residents in the West are not particularly fond of bureaucrats in Washington telling them how to run their affairs.
Last month, the Executive Vice President of PETA, Tracy Reiman, set off a local firestorm when she scolded: “Telluride’s town council should never allow any business that would force skittish horses to haul heavy carriages on chaotic town streets. Today’s kind public wants nothing to do with businesses that exploit animals, and PETA is calling on Telluride to join … many other cities across the country that have banned these cruel and archaic operations.”
It is not known whether Reiman has ever visited Telluride or has any earthly idea how “chaotic” our streets are. One thing is for certain: If she comes to town on a Tuesday this summer, Reiman will likely see horses (that aren’t at all skittish) hauling a driver and 14 tourists on a carriage.
After more than an hour of public comment and discussion, Mayor Sean Murphy and Town Council voted unanimously to amend Telluride Municipal Code Chapter 7, adding a division applicable to horse-drawn carriage rides, thus establishing a regulatory framework for permitting possible tours.
Telluride Wranglers and the Telluride Historical Museum first approached Town Council in April about conducting historical tours via equine. Then PETA weighed in, and council members began receiving hundreds of identical-sounding letters telling them what to do. Council member DeLanie Young estimated 1,000 emails — mostly from out of town — flooded her inbox, many claiming that “Telluride ‘would suffer consequences’ if we approved carriages. Personally, I don’t like threats,” she said.
The public comment period of the meeting saw multiple citizens stand up to defend Telluride Wranglers and admonish outsiders from prying into local affairs.
The museum’s Pepper Raper urged, “Don’t let outside influencers take over what’s happening here.”
“Horses were bred for thousands of years before PETA,” claimed wrangler Roudy Roudebush. “That attitude of ‘don’t tell me what to do’ has made Telluride what it is. We shouldn’t let people from the East tell us how to run our town.”
When Telluride Wranglers owner Noah Gregory stood up, he said, “Thanks for your patience with all these PETA emails. I’ve received lots of them, too, and I’ve made my email address and phone number accessible to anyone who wanted to discuss our operation. Not one person has ever called me to talk about my horses.”
Gregory explained that the Belgian horses used in the proposed tours are the “same team we used in the Fourth of July parade last year. They weigh 2,200 pounds each. You won’t see a Belgian racing on a track in Kentucky. Belgians are gentle giants. They’re cold-blooded and never spook. These boys have worked so much harder than they would have to in town.”
Gregory added, “We’re only looking at operating one day a week, Tuesdays, with one hour-long ride starting at 1 p.m. and one at 2:30 p.m. Between tours, the horses will get water and rest at the museum, where they’ll be out of the hustle and bustle of the streets.”
Many of the dozens of people wedged into Rebekah Hall wore cowboy hats and boots. Only one person, Maureen Pelisson, expressed PETA’s view that carriage tours can be cruel on a horse.
Kiernan Lannon, director of the Telluride Historical Museum, urged council to amend town code because “we feel that horse-drawn tours help us achieve our mission, which is to express the history of Telluride.” He said the tours would mention 13 historic sites in town.
Because PETA specifically lauded Breckenridge for outlawing carriages, Murphy called the mayor of that ski town and learned that their tours operated on streets with 25 mph and 35 mph speed limits — as opposed to Telluride’s 15 mph restrictions.
Town Attorney Kevin Geiger stressed that equine tours would be allowed only during daylight, would not be allowed between Nov. 1 and April 1, would not be allowed when any snow or ice is on the ground, and would not be allowed in Town Park or on any recreation path.
The discussion concluded when each and every council member, as well as Murphy, said “yes” to amending municipal code.