Solvang asked to ban horse-drawn carriages to honor longtime resident
Although the Solvang City Council recently read a proclamation to honor long-time Solvang resident Hazel Mortensen, animal rights activists are calling for more.
Members of PETA penned a letter to the council on Wednesday, requesting the city ban horse-drawn trolleys and carriages in the city to honor Ms. Mortensen, a longtime PETA supporter, who died Saturday at the age of 85.
The city council voted in July to renew the business license for Solvang Trolley & Carriage Company, while Ms. Mortensen called the industry cruel.
“Horses are not meant to work on blacktop and inhale car fumes for hours, especially during hot summer days. Horse trolley as entertainment is not a Danish tradition,” Ms. Mortensen said, according to the letter.
Ms. Mortensen started a petition to ban the trade, which garnered nearly 700 signatures. She was also known to speak out against horse-drawn carriages in letters to the editor and to the council.
Melanie Johnson, assistant manager of PETA’s Animals in Entertainment group, wrote that following the council’s Aug. 24 meeting that Ms. Mortensen wrote to her and expressed that Solvang must “accept practicing ethical tourism which is respecting animal rights.”
The letter continues, “Your council has heard from residents who don’t want their city to be associated with this cruelty as well as from tourists across the country who will spend their money elsewhere. When I visited the Danish-style town last March, my heart sank when I saw horses forced to pull tourist-filled trollies for hours on end with no shade from the sun. Like many other tourists, the wonderful memories that I have of the city are tainted by the image of those suffering animals.”
The Solvang City Council formally honored Ms. Mortensen on Monday, holding a moment of silence during the meeting.
Mayor Pro Tem Robert Clarke then read a proclamation honoring Ms. Mortensen for her contributions to the city “through her civic service, outspoken personality and care for others,” he said.
The proclamation cited Ms. Mortensen’s unexpected passing last weekend and noted that she “faithfully served her adopted city.” Ms. Mortensen volunteered for 20 years at the Orange County Animal Shelter before relocating to Solvang.
“Hazel Mortensen played an invaluable role providing citizen oversight of elected officials and city management and advocacy for the rights of residents in the city,” Mr. Clarke said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms. Mortensen continued to procure food donations and administer a food program for dogs in need, the proclamation added.
“Hazel Mortensen was loved and respected by many for her selfless public service and her fierce voice for the protection of animals,” Mr. Clarke said. “May it be resolved that the city of Solvang acknowledges its sincere sympathy to her family and friends and appreciation for her steadfast involvement in city affairs.
“Hazel Mortensen will be missed.”
In a statement to the News-Press, Solvang Mayor Ryan Toussaint referred to Ms. Hazel as “a fixture in our community,” and noted that the proclamation read by the council is “an honor which does not necessarily get bestowed upon many of our citizens.”
Mr. Toussaint added that the city does not intend to ban horse-drawn carriages and trolleys.
“However, to expect the Council to endanger another Solvang family’s livelihood by essentially, shutting down their business, does not seem like an appropriate course of action under these circumstances,” he said. “We granted the carriage business license renewal during the summer, as the Solvang Trolley is as much a fixture in this community as Hazel had been.”
The mayor said the extended closure of Copenhagen Drive to vehicle traffic has funneled “a good amount” of the town’s foot traffic to that promenade, and some of the concerns regarding trolley operations where pedestrians are present “have been somewhat alleviated.”
The council sat down with the trolley company to see what could be done to address some of the concerns that have been discussed in previous meetings.
“We hope that this collaboration will be a win-win situation for everyone,” Mr. Toussaint said.