Couples getting married at the Gordon-Lee Mansion in Walker County, Ga., sometimes take a horse-drawn carriage ride around Chickamauga’s historic downtown.
Because of those short jaunts, and because carriage operators have expressed interest in offering regular rides to tourists, the city has drafted an ordinance to regulate horse-drawn carriage operations.
“We look forward to someone coming and giving it a shot,” City Manager John Culpepper said. “We’ve had one or two folks ask about it.”
The new law, City Councilman Jim Staub said, is a way to stave off possible lawsuits.
“Primarily, it’s to protect the city of any liabilities that might occur,” he said.
The draft ordinance would require carriage operators to have insurance. It also calls for city approval for carriage routes and would prohibit operators from working horses for more than eight hours a day or when the temperature climbs above 95 degrees.
The ordinance includes fees: $20 for one-time carriage use or $100 annually for permanent operations. A carriage driver’s license would cost $25.
Four years ago, when Brittany and Richard Edgerton launched Down South Carriage Service, they considered offering rides regularly in Chickamauga.
“It’s perfect for a carriage business,” Brittany Edgerton said.
The Edgertons planned to wait for passengers disembarking from the Tennessee Valley Railroad’s “Chickamauga Turn” Saturday excursion train.
Ultimately, though, they decided insurance costs were prohibitive. So the only time they bring their Percheron draft horses from Dalton, Ga., is for weddings at the Gordon-Lee Mansion.
“The insurance cost is about 90 percent of [expenses],” she said. “I hope someone can make it happen.”
Chickamauga Tourism Director Richard Barclift isn’t sure the city has enough activity to support a full-time carriage business.
“That’s just a tough one,” Barclift said. “There’s not a lot of nightlife in Chickamauga. For special events, I think it’d be great.”
The council is expected to consider the draft ordinance at its March 6 meeting.
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.