Charleston's carriage operators are protesting the city's plan to shut them down during the Blue Angels' shows this weekend and during the Navy jet demonstration team's practice runs Thursday and Friday.
The Blue Angels will perform their low-flying stunts and aerobatics over Charleston Harbor. The city has told carriage operators to plan on ceasing operations between noon and 4:30 p.m. Thursday, and from 1-3 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
"The city has been provided information from military representatives that this noise has frightened horses and caused them to run furiously in the past, thereby as a safety precaution we feel this is necessary," Traffic and Transportation Director Hernan Pena wrote in a memo to city officials and carriage operators.
Tom Doyle Sr., owner of Palmetto Carriage, said he and other carriage operators hope to persuade officials to drop the restrictions during a City Council committee meeting this afternoon. The Traffic and Transportation Committee meets at 3:45 p.m. in City Hall.
"April is the busiest month of the year for us, and this is a huge chunk out of our operating time," Doyle said. "I signed 87 paychecks last week, and I've got a barn full of mules."
Doyle said carriage owners were not consulted, and he's confident the Blue Angels' jets would not spook his mules or the horses used by rival companies.
"Planes fly over Charleston all the time," he said. "There are (noisy) cement mixers, sewer-cleaning machines. We deal with challenging conditions on a daily basis."
Doyle said he has taken carriages and mule teams to Charleston Air Force Base to give rides to service members' children during base Christmas parties, and did not have any problems related to jets taking off and landing nearby.
City Tourism Director Vanessa Turner-Maybank said the plan to restrict carriage operations is supported by the city's tourism, traffic and police departments, based on a recommendation from the Blue Angels.
"They made some recommendations to us that it would be a good idea to take the carriages off the streets," said Turner-Maybank, who provided an e-mail from Blue Angels Event Coordinator Lt. Amy Tomlinson.
"We think the horses will not like the noise and recommend they do not run them during the hours we are flying to be safe," Tomlinson said in the e-mail. "That is not an expert opinion, but just the collective thoughts of our team."
The city has proposed allowing carriages to operate for an extra hour in residential neighborhoods Thursday through Sunday evenings to make up for the reduced afternoon hours.