City may fund mounted park rangers

March 1, 2013
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After four years off the city budget, the City of Boston Park Rangers Mounted Unit —stabled at Franklin Park— may be spared the final sunset ride.

City Council President Stephen Murphy told the Gazette that it might be time to “look into” bringing the mounted unit back into the City budget.

While the City pays the salaries of the 12 full-time rangers, the Friends of the Boston Park Rangers Mounted Unit has taken on the responsibility for covering all horse-related expenses, including veterinary care and food, after the City defunded the unit in the 2010 budget. Those expenses currently run $155,000 a year, according to Friends President Julia Donahue.

At the time of the defunding, however, there was talk of possibly refunding the unit after “three or four years,” after the economy had improved somewhat, Friend Sarah Freeman, a JP resident, told the Gazette.

“The Friends were going to carry it for a few years,” she said. “But it would generate a lot more private money if people saw a commitment from the City.”

And it seems that time may finally be coming.

“With a little more room in the City budget, perhaps it may be time for the City to take over care of the horses as well. It is definitely something worth looking into this year,” Murphy told the Gazette through a spokesperson.

“We’re taking it one year at a time,” City Tax Collector Meredith Weenick told the Gazette. “[But] it’s not in discussion at this time.”

The Friends of the Boston Park Rangers Mounted Unit hosted its yearly fund-raiser on Feb. 26, at Jacob Wirth Restaurant. There is another fund-raiser planned for April, with a Kentucky Derby theme.

“There’s no one in the city who wants to see these horses go,” Donahue 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.

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

More information on the Friends group and the mounted unit is available at savebostonshorses.org.

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