Park horses try to avoid the sunset ride

March 2, 2012
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(Courtesy Photo) Park Ranger Meghan O’Boyle on horse Fredrick and Ranger Hodari Keels talk with children about horse grooming at Mayor Thomas Menino’s Children’s Festival at the Franklin Park Clubhouse on Feb. 23.

The Boston Park Rangers Mounted Unit—stabled at Franklin Park—is once again trying to avoid a sunset ride into retirement.

An upcoming fund-raiser, organized by the Friends of the Boston Park Rangers Mounted Unit, is aimed at keeping the horses on the force for another year.

While the City pays the salaries of the 12 full-time rangers, the Friends group has taken on the responsibility for covering all horse-related expenses, including veterinary care and food, Boston Parks and Recreation Department spokesperson Jacquelyn Goddard told the Gazette.

“Without the fund-raising, there would be Park Rangers who would patrol on foot and in vehicles,” Goddard said. “The area they patrol includes wooded and hilly areas that are sometimes inaccessible by car.”

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

Last year, a volunteer/internship program was developed to help manage the stable, which included students, volunteers and at-risk youth.

“The rangers conduct educational seminars when available, generally in the winter months, when there is less demand on the rangers to provide security at events,” Goddard said.

The Mounted Unit once had over 12 patrol horses and 24 year-round park rangers. Due to budget constraints, the program has been halved and has been under frequent threat of total disbandment.

When the Mounted Unit faced disbandment last year, the Emerald Necklace Conservancy raised $155,000 in donations to maintain the unit through the next year. The Friends group was formed at the end of last summer to shoulder some of the responsibility, allowing the Emerald Necklace Conservancy to focus on the entire park system.

While mounted rangers spend most of their time on Boston Common in downtown Boston, they are also a regular fixture at JP parks. The horses travel from Franklin Park in a trailer.

The Friends of the Boston Park Rangers Mounted Unit are hosting their yearly fund-raiser on Mon., March 5, at Jacob Wirth Restaurant. Tickets range from $75 to $125 and are available at savebostonshorses.org.

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