I come from a family of horse people.

That is to say, my grandmother rode in the Olympics, my grandfather was a well-known horse show judge and my father grew up with horses on Deer Isle – they weren’t “horse people” in the sense that they were half human and half horse (as far as I knew). As a kid, my dad would get up at 4:30 every morning to muck out the horse stalls – something he told us quite frequently, over and over, usually whenever we complained about waking up early – and it was important to him to pass on that love to us. But horses are expensive.

Horse Island Camp wasn’t.

I was lucky enough to go to Jeanann Alves’ camp on Peaks Island for a few summers as a kid. (It helped that we got a discount because we went to the same Catholic school as her kids. Catholic school families tend to stick together.)

Of course, when it comes to actual horses, I’m pretty unlucky. They are not my forte. While I love them very much, they are beautiful, graceful, elegant creatures, and I am none of those things.

Among my cherished memories of my time there:

A horse stepped on my foot.

A horse stepped on my hand. (It wasn’t the camp’s fault, there was no lasting damage and the horse wasn’t even wearing shoes.)

I fell off a horse in slow motion, which taught me a valuable lesson about asking for help when you need it (i.e., before you fall off the horse). I still have a faint scar from where the helmet of the rider in front of me whacked my glasses. (They fell off with me but they were undamaged because my body broke their fall.)

I was charged by an absolutely fearless chicken that was feeling territorial. (To this day, chickens make me nervous.)

I clearly remember seeing a small packet fall out of my counselor’s backpack, asking what it was and being told, “It’s a pad. You’ll need them someday.”

There was a horse decorating contest. (My team did not win.)

Being allowed to walk by myself from the ferry dock to the camp and feeling extremely grown up and mature.

Getting lost walking from the ferry dock to camp. (In fairness, Peaks Island is a pretty good place to be a lost 10-year-old, on account of it is very small and very friendly.)

So as you can imagine, I was upset to hear that the camp might close, because of a complicated web of legal and financial disputes that seem to largely center on zoning permits and, presumably, grumpy neighbors who paid for a postcard view and didn’t like having to look at horse sheds.

Furthermore, in my opinion (because I’m an opinion columnist, darn it!), it was a jerk move of the city of Portland to demolish the horse shelters because they didn’t have the correct permits – in November. A very cold November. Is no shelter for the horses better than a shelter without the proper permits?

I care about protecting wetlands as much as the next environmentally conscious millennial, don’t get me wrong, but this isn’t the Scarborough salt marshes we’re talking about here. Plus, climate change is going to damage Peaks Island in the coming decades far more than a couple of ungulates. At least horse manure can be used as fertilizer.

Many places in Maine, especially waterfront ones, have become functionally reserved for the wealthy, including most of Peaks Island. But Horse Island Camp wasn’t like that. On their website, a week of day camp is priced at $450, which puts it within affordable range for a lot of families.

Everyone involved seems to be saying, “Oh, no, we don’t want the camp to shut down. We want the horses to stay.”

Well, then do something about it. Give her some permits. Make a zoning exception. Buy the horses a temporary trailer. Like a lot of things, I suspect the matter all comes down to money. Jeanann Alves doesn’t have enough of it. The land is valuable. It’s probably not long until we start hearing the “c” word – condominiums – thrown around.

I may not be an expert in land law or leases or statutes, but I can tell you one thing, and that is that if the horses have to leave the island, Peaks will lose a little bit of its magic.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: mainemillennial

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