While Kansas City Councilwoman Teresa Loar is determined to thwart officials and residents who believe a new single KCI terminal is in the city’s best interest, at least she’s got it right on a smaller matter — that the tradition of horse-drawn carriages on the Country Club Plaza should be halted.
This has been a bad idea from the start — I believe it began in the ’80s — and there have now been at least three accidents involving the carriages.
The most recent incident, Saturday night, was by far the worst. A horse pulling a carriage with a driver and four passengers began running out of control at 47th and Wornall. The carriage crashed about two blocks south after running into a fence on the Brush Creek bridge. The Star’s story said the driver was ejected and fell over the bridge onto the ground below. One of the passengers suffered a broken arm and required surgery. All four passengers suffered bruises.
The horse, which ended up lying on the sidewalk, was also injured and has been retired from carriage service.
One of the passengers, Rochelle Baldwin, told The Star she called the carriage company, Kansas City Carriages, and left voicemail messages but had not received a return call.
The company returned reporter Lynn Horsley’s call, of course, because a negative story — which ran online today — could significantly impact the business.
The carriage rides have long impeded traffic on the Plaza, and, now, finally, there’s a growing realization that the horses are, indeed, unpredictable animals and not plodding, docile creatures.
Loar, whom Horsley described as “a longtime animal welfare advocate,” said she would push for banning the carriage rides. Horsley said another animal advocate, Councilwoman Jolie Justus, is not a fan of the rides but “wants to hear from all sides on the issue.”
Officials in some cities already have come to their senses. Cities that have banned horse-drawn carriage rides include Las Vegas, Reno, Biloxi and Asheville. Cities that still have them include New York, Philadelphia and Savannah.
I witnessed what I believe was the first carriage accident in Kansas City. To the best of my recollection, it happened in the mid- to late 1980s. I was walking along Nichols Road with a date one night and saw a horse bolt while pulling a carriage near what was then the Halls store. The carriage crashed into a car, as I recall, before coming to a halt. No one was injured, and the horse remained upright, but it sure was unsettling. I called The Star and told a reporter what I had seen, and a short story ran the next morning.
The carriage-ride business had another setback in 1996, when two horses collapsed and died from disease. Horsley’s story said the city tightened regulations after that.
A complicating factor back in the 1980s — and maybe into the ’90s — was that there were two competing carriage-ride operators, and one was a close friend of then-Mayor Richard L. Berkley and his wife Sandy. I don’t know what kind of connections the owners of Kansas City Carriages have with the City Council, but momentum seems to be turning against the carriage-ride industry nationally…Let’s hope sound reason prevails in Kansas City and that the Plaza streets will be returned — full time — to motorists.