Hereford clerk slams 'disrespectful' dog walkers as frost covers are ripped up
Hereford clerk of the course Libby O'Flaherty has criticised "disrespectful" dog walkers who have been breaking into the racecourse grounds and allowing their pets to rip up the track's frost covers, with the latest incident of vandalism occurring on Friday.
The course is a public site, which means dogs are usually allowed to be walked on footpaths in the middle of the track as long as they are on a lead at all times, but the Covid-19 pandemic and new lockdown measures have meant it is closed to the public at the moment.
However, O'Flaherty said dog walkers are illegally gaining access to the track by cutting through the surrounding fences and allowing their pets to run on the prohibited areas without a lead. This has resulted in the covers being ripped from their positions and damage caused to the protected grass beneath.
After the course tweeted about the latest incident on Friday morning, officials spoke to Hereford City Council to urge them to help protect the course and take swift action against those found to be trespassing.
Extremely disappointed and frustrated that local people have allowed their dogs to run loose & unsupervised over fleece cover deployed on course to help protect Monday's fixture. Mindless, costly & the equivalent of vandalism. Keep dogs on leads & under control. pic.twitter.com/uCnhiU8bjL— Hereford Racecourse (@HerefordRaces) January 8, 2021
O'Flaherty, who is also clerk of the course at Chepstow, said: "It's so frustrating. It's totally disrespectful. So much hard work goes into maintaining the track. The groundstaff take so much pride in their work and then people who have no respect come along and rip the sheets. It's a total disregard for the industry.
"The middle of the racecourse is closed because the nearby leisure centre is closed, the gates are firmly shut. The only way people are getting on is coming through the fence. We keep fixing the fence, but people keep breaking it, cutting holes in the fence and coming through. They're walking across the sheets, then their dogs are running around, ripping the sheets up and off and trying to rip the grass out.
"The frost covers are there for a reason. They are there to serve a purpose. This is the difficulty that some racetracks face when they have public footpaths and dog walkers on them. All we are trying to do is our best to get racing on during an incredibly difficult time."
The work of the groundstaff at Hereford has been affected by the incidents, which have forced the course into purchasing more protective covers, adding unnecessary additional costs during a tough financial period.
Despite Friday's incident, O'Flaherty said it has not put Hereford's meeting on Monday in doubt.
"We just re-cover the areas which have been affected, but it's a nuisance for my groundstaff when we have other jobs that need doing," she added. "We do that job, it's covered and should be left, we shouldn't have to go back to it.
"But now, every morning they have to go out, check areas, take it up and put more down. It's costly as well, the sheets aren't cheap and it's so time-consuming."
The biggest threat to Monday's meeting, which will be the track's first of the year following the cancellation of the meeting on January 2, is likely to be the cold snap. However, O'Flaherty is hopeful the fixture will survive the weekend's freezing temperatures.
"There was a light frost on the ground this morning, but the majority of the track is covered," she said. "The forecast is overnight frosts at the weekend, but daytime temperatures on Monday are looking 6C. Hopefully, the forecast does what it says it's going to do."
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