Rangers Mounted Unit tries to avoid sunset ride

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

A fundraiser and auction, organized by the Friends of the Boston Park Rangers Mounted Unit, is aiming to keeping the horses on the force for another year by raising $25,000 by the end of the month.

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 the City pays the salaries of the 12 full-time rangers, the Friends of the Boston Park Rangers Mounted Unit group has taken on the responsibility for covering all horse-related expenses, including veterinary care and food.

Julia Donahue, head of the friends group, told the Gazette that while fundraising has kept the rangers in their saddles for now, it’s not a plan that will work indefinitely.

“There’s something called donor fatigue. There needs to be a plan for these parks,” she told the Gazette last week. “Obviously, we need the horses, and obviously six is not enough. Do we need 12? Twenty? Forty? I don’t know, but we need more.”

When the Mounted Unit faced disbandment in 2010, the Emerald Necklace Conservancy raised $155,000 in donations to maintain the unit through the next year. The friends group was formed to shoulder some of the responsibility, allowing the Emerald Necklace Conservancy to focus on the entire park system.

“The city budget is under pressure from police, from the fire department. People don’t want to pay more in taxes. We have to think out of the box and come up with a plan that will [fund the] horses and fund a study to determine what we really need in these parks,” Donahue said.

A Gazette request for City comment about the possibly of funding the horses was not returned by press time.

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 were planning to host their second annual “Derby Dash” fund-raiser on Thurs., April 10, at the Lenox Hotel, after the Gazette’s deadline.

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