County of Marin - Press Releases - Safety on Trails

For Immediate Release
June 25, 2013

County Investigates Equestrian Injury Incident

Mountain bikers were breaking trail rules when horses were spooked

In the wake of a recent injury incident on a Novato trail, Marin County Parks is receiving and considering public feedback that promotes safe use of trails by equestrians, mountain bikers, hikers and those who love the preserves’ natural assets.

A Road and Trail Management Plan/Environmental Impact Report will be unveiled by Marin County Parks staff at a public meeting July 23 at the Marin Civic Center Administration Building. The County has hosted 10 well-attended public workshops over the past three years and embarked on an intensive data collection effort to craft a plan that presents new policies and a framework for making decisions for improving safety, enjoyment, fairness and resource protection in the County preserves.

Despite a campaign against trail use abuse and increased enforcement, a select few risk-takers continue to ignore County ordinances and put themselves and fellow trail users in danger.

Parks Director Linda Dahl said her staff has been flooded by public comments after an equestrian was seriously injured June 20 in the Indian Tree Open Space Preserve on the northwest side of Novato. A female rider was thrown from her horse after it was spooked by two young, male mountain bikers who were on a narrow trail that prohibits biking. The bikers raced past the equestrian and her friend, who was also thrown from her mount but not injured. The bikers did not stop despite calls for help as the injured woman lay on the ground.

Her horse, a fully saddled Belgian named Coco, was lost among the canyons for more than 24 hours and it was feared she would not survive. A seasonal Marin County Open Space ranger found Coco as part of an extensive coordinated search. Coco had gashes and a broken nose but has been treated by a veterinarian and reportedly is doing well.

Nevertheless, Dahl said the County is attempting to identify the bikers, who were in violation of a posted ordinance. Bicyclists are prohibited from riding on Open Space District trails except on fire protection roads, designated bike pathways or public roads not signed against such use.

“We have some very good leads and we continue to investigate,” Dahl said. “The goal is holding the bicyclists accountable. We work very closely with the Sheriff’s Office and we are receiving assistance from them on this matter.”

Anyone with information is urged to call Marin County Parks at 415-473-6387; anonymous tips are accepted. Enforcement has been ramped up as much as possible with rangers and Sheriff’s deputies.

Dahl said public reaction to the June 20 incident has been reminiscent of 2009, when a crisis of conflicts among trail users prompted the Marin County Board of Supervisors to direct the parks and open space staff to craft the transparent, inclusive community planning process that has been under way to resolve trail conflicts. The July 23 meeting, scheduled for 10 a.m. in the Board of Supervisors Chambers, is to be a joint session between the five-member Marin County Parks and Open Space District Board of Directors (the County Supervisors) and the seven-member Marin County Parks and Open Space Commission.

Those interested in the County’s policy are invited to check and read about the Road and Trail Management Plan/Environmental Impact Report. Click here to subscribe to be notified of future news and meetings on the subject.


Pat O'Brien
Interim Director and General Manager
Marin County Parks

Marin Civic Center
Suite 260
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-6387
Email: Pat O'Brien
Marin County Parks website