Park horses spared sunset ride again

October 22, 2010
By

David Taber

The Boston Park Rangers mounted unit—stabled at Franklin Park—was spared disbandment yet again this month when the city signed a new agreement with Emerald Necklace Conservancy (ENC)-head Julie Crockford.

Boston Parks Department Spokesperson Mary Hines told the Gazette that Crockford signed the agreement—which commits private donors to coming up with $155,000 to maintain the seven-horse unit in the coming year—on behalf of a new group, the Friends of the Boston Park Rangers.

“This matters to a lot of people…We were looking at what is the best way for us to keep attention on this issue,” Crockford told the Gazette.

“What we felt was that in order to maintain and retain the horses over time, it is important that there be a group dedicated to the mounted unit and seasonal rangers,” Julie Donahue, co-chair of the new friends group told the Gazette.

Forming a new group that is specifically focused on supporting the rangers’ mounted unit will take some pressure off the ENC, which has led the charge to maintain the mounted unit over the past few years, but has a broader mandate to support the city’s Emerald Necklace park system, Crockford said. That string of parks includes Franklin Park, the Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Pond Park and Olmsted Park in Jamaica Plain.

The city has twice moved to disband the unit in the past two years, but advocates have argued that mounted rangers play important public safety and public relations roles in city parks.

Private donations totaling $140,000 kept the mounted unit going last year and helped the Parks Department pay for seasonal park rangers.

The unit had been set to disband after the fiscal year ended June 30, but there was enough money left from private donations for the unit to be maintained until October.

While mounted rangers spend most of their time on Boston Common in downtown Boston, they are a regular fixture at Jamaica Pond as well.

“We are willing to contribute to keeping the mounted unit viable, but hope the city will be an equal partner in this,” Sam Sherwood, a JP mounted unit supporter told the Gazette.

“We think the city is better with the mounted park rangers and we want to help the city be the best it can be,” said Sarah Freeman, another local mounted unit advocate.

More information about the Friends of the Boston Park Rangers is available at the Emerald Necklace Conservancy web site, EmeraldNecklace.org, including information about a Nov. 30 fundraiser for the group hosted by Mayor Thomas Menino.