Horse poop a problem for wheelchairs on rural sidewalks, Saanich woman claims

Natalie North

News staff

With traffic often backed up and gaps in the sidewalks, Wilkinson Road can be treacherous for pedestrians – let alone someone in a wheelchair navigating her way around mounds of horse poop.

On Feb. 14, Karen Hough faced an imposing roadblock that’s become a little too regular in her opinion. The Orchard Woods resident chose to turn around her motorized wheelchair on Wilkinson near West Saanich Road and ended up missing her doctor’s appointment. Her support worker Dolores Thatcher spotted a fresh batch of equine excrement in their way and outlined her client’s options: either roll through the poop and hose down the chair later, swerve into traffic or abort their daily walk.

“The wheels are horribly dirty because we drive through all of this horse poop,” Thatcher said.

This is not a new problem for the two women, both in their 50s. It’s actually a sensitive issue they say they’ve struggled to bring to the attention of horse riders in the area for some time.

“I really want to stop them, but I’ve never been able to,” Thatcher said, who finally became so frustrated she decided to go public with her gripe. “They (horse riders) are on top of their horses. Clippity-clop – they’re gone.”

Pedestrian complaints to Saanich regarding horse droppings on that section of road are not particularly common and no guidelines are in place to regulate equestrians use of shoulders and sidewalks.

“Saanich is half rural, half urban and Wilkinson Road is the divider,” Coun. Judy Brownoff said. “Maybe the real issue here is that we need a proper sidewalk.”

That will happen, at least in part, this spring. Sidewalk construction is planned on West Saanich at Pipeline and Wilkinson roads near the SIDES distributed learning campus. More sidewalk will be added as new development comes to the area, said Saanich transportation manager Jim Hemstock. In the meantime, Saanich isn’t planning to use its staff to clean up rural messes that stray into the urban divide.

“Horses create horse droppings, frankly speaking, there’s just not the cash available,” Hemstock said.

Hough’s neighbour, Gary Rutherford walks the area daily. Droppings are in the way for wheelchairs, he said, whether they’re on the side of the road or proper sidewalks.

“I don’t mind dipsy-doodling around the messes, but they’re there and it’s a darn shame,” Rutherford said. “I have to commiserate with Karen,” he added. “I really do. It must be awful. She’s out there trying to still get around.”