THE fight is on to retain Hillarys Horse Beach.
An online petition with almost 3100 signatures and a Facebook group with almost 2000 members have been created in a bid to save the 160m stretch of beach on Whitfords Avenue.
At the City of Joondalup’s May 17 meeting, councillors voted 10-3 to close the beach following a decision made in 2010 to phase out the closure over four years.
This is to enable the horse float carpark to be reconfigured to allow for more car bays for dog beach users.
With the only alternative horse beaches in Gingin, Kwinana or Cockburn, the petition states the Hillarys beach is “the only horse beach close to the city for those residents living north of Perth”.
Lead petitioner and Save Whitfords Horse Beach spokeswoman Sarah Bevan said users of the Hillarys Horse Beach were already restricted with the beach only open to horses on Mondays to Saturdays from daybreak to noon, after which the area becomes a dog beach, and with only six horse float car bays allocated.
She said many horse owners in the area would not be able to take their animals to alternative beaches because they were too far.
“My horse is very warm so she would cook in a float if she was left in there for that long in summer,” she said.
“Imagine being stuck in a metal box with no air con or fan.
“It’s not viable if you have to drive for four hours; it’s hard enough for them to balance and you have to drive slow.”
Ms Bevan said users of the beach would be losing a “hugely important resource”.
“Race trainers like to wade their horses up and down the shoreline,” she said.
“It’s good exercise and it keeps the impact off the joints to preserve their legs.
“It’s also good for rehabilitating horses with injuries because the ocean has such valuable healing properties; it’s a gentle way to exercise for sprains and strains.
“It also gives horses a change of scenery and gets them used to new environments.”
She said closing the beach seemed like “a drastic measure”.
“We just want somewhere to take our horses,” she said.
“It’s a social thing; the kids love it. People love coming up and patting the horses.
“No one is getting hurt, everyone is happy.
“The government and local business may also lose revenue through the loss of tourism opportunities as the general public enjoy taking pictures of the horses. This beach is a great asset to the community.”
Ms Bevan also fought back at claims the horse beach was under utilised.
“Yes in winter, the usage drops off but in summer, it’s hugely popular especially in the school holidays,” she said.
“With the restrictions, most people can only go on Saturdays before midday.
“There have been times where I have been driving from Bullsbrook and I get to the beach and the horse float bays are full, so you turn around and go back.”
She said the beach was a public area so anyone should have the right to access it.
“There is a lot of support for the beach to stay open,” she said.
“You need a sheltered area for a horse beach and that’s what this beach provides with no rocks and no coral.”
It is believed the horse beach was created in the early to mid 1970s. It was then 500m long but this was reduced to 160m in 2001.
The City of Joondalup expects to close the beach by the end of the year.