BRADENTON -- They talked about horse diapers.
They mulled over whether horses are "pedestrians."
They even discussed an equine ban.
In the end, officials Monday decided to step up enforcement of anti-littering laws as a way to deal with those who fail to clean up their animals' manure along the walkways of Palma Sola Causeway.
First-time violators would face a minimum fine of $100, plus community service work that could entail cleaning up horse poop along the causeway, said William Lisch, the Bradenton city attorney.
"It's like a ticket: you appear before a court," he said after a group comprised of city, state and Keep Manatee Beautiful officials met at Bradenton City Hall to try to find a solution.
Signs also are needed, urging horseback riders to clean up, the group decided.
Lisch suggested: "Protect Your Privilege."
The causeway, linking Bradenton to the Gulf of Mexico beaches, has become a popular spot for horseback riding.
It is among only a few places in the state where people may ride along an easily-accessible beach, officials said.
"It's designed to be multi-
modal," said Ingrid McClellan, executive director of the non-profit Keep Manatee Beautiful.
At least three commercial outfits rent horses for treks along the causeway, said McClellan, who added that the roadway in 2004 met requirements of the Florida Scenic Highways Program.
It was included in a $289,756 upgrade accomplished with Florida Department of Transportation funds that included landscaping and safety features for pedestrians, she said.
Although Great World Adventures, a local business, last year rented horses to more than 2,000 customers at about $120 per hour each, those who live near the causeway said the business is careful to clean up.
"We do not want to mess up our privilege of coming out here," said Stacy Arpke, owner of Sandy Hooves Horse Adventures, of Oneco, another business that provides rides along the causeway.
She had just finished a ride with a client, and cleaned up after the horses.
The problem stems from private horse owners who have begun trucking animals from other parts of the state for a dip in the bay, Arpke said.
Horseback riding is allowed at a very few beaches across the state, including those near St. Augustine; Jacksonville, and in the Florida Panhandle area of Cape San Blas, according to tourism officials.
Part of the difficulty of keeping the causeway clean involves jurisdictional questions, as the Florida Department of Transportation and the city of Bradenton team up to maintain the area.
Last year, the Bradenton City Council dropped an effort to ban horseback riders along the causeway.
"I'm going to say we're just working on it," concluded Bradenton City Councilman Gene Gallo, who chaired the meeting Monday, and will report to the Bradenton City Council.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.com.