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Norco residents oppose horse trail changes

July 26, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Norco is known as Horse Town USA. Many equestrians consider the city, population 26,000, heaven on earth. There are miles upon miles of horse trails. But there's now a debate brewing over some of those trails.

"It's the horse capital of the USA, and we have more horses per capita than people, and that's the great part about it," said Norco resident Micheline Hicks.

On Monday, Hicks and her friends took a ride along one of their favorite trails: a bamboo tunnel in the Santa Ana riverbed.

"It's actually a lot cooler," Hicks said. "It's just quiet and serene."

But besides the natural beauty of the tunnel, all of the bamboo can create problems, and now the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is talking about cutting all of the bamboo down.

"I just don't think that's right," Hicks said.

"This is the reason we all moved to Norco," added Holly Chilson of Norco. "We don't want this taken away from us."

As frustrating as it is for these Norco horse lovers, they may not have much choice.

The Army wants to restore the native habitat, which means removing all the bamboo. There are also concerns about the water in the area.

"The fact that the plant is sucking up so much water, it reduces the amount of water that goes to the aquifers in Orange County," said Norco Mayor Malcom Miller.

The mayor said the government is working with residents.

"I personally don't believe that restoring the habitat is going to mean sacrificing all the trails," Miller said.

The bamboo tunnels may become a thing of the past, but horseback riders aren't giving up just yet.

"We're tough people though, we're Norconians," Chilson said. "We're going to put our hooves in hard and hang on tight."

At the very least, the bamboo tunnels will be around until September.