Owners Fight to Keep Patrol Unit on Beach

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, April 20, 2010

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

Kinsey Devenport, 17, of North Hampton’s Runnymeade Farm, leads former Hampton Patrol horses Arrow, left, and Butch back to the barn after a rainy day in the paddock on Saturday. [John Carden photo]

HAMPTON — Hampton Beach business owners are joining forces in a grass-roots effort to raise enough funds to save the police Mounted Patrol Unit.

Todd Loiseau of Kennedy & Loiseau Real Estate said he couldn’t just stand by and watch the end of a nearly 30-year tradition of having police on horseback patrol the beach during the summer.

The group, he said, is working to raise funds to continue to house and feed two horses, Butch and Arrow, at Runnymeade Farm in North Hampton long enough to give voters a chance to save the unit at the 2011 annual Town Meeting.

“We don’t want to see the unit come to end,” Loiseau said. “And by the reaction we have been hearing, neither does the public.”

Already, several businesses at the beach and town have come forward stating they plan to donate, and several fund-raisers are in the works.

“There is not a doubt in my mind that we won’t be able to raise the money needed,” Loiseau said.

The unit was eliminated three weeks ago due to budget cuts faced by the town’s Police Department.

Hampton Police Chief Jamie Sullivan said disbanding the unit established in 1981 was one of toughest decisions he has had to make. It became a choice between “horseshoes in the street or boots on the street.”

Adding to the budgetary issues was that both officers in the two-horse unit are out on extended leave, and one of the horses is nearing the end of its capability as a Mounted Patrol horse.

Selectman Richard Bateman said he’s 100 percent behind the effort to save the unit. A special police officer with the department, Bateman was one of the officers who raised money to start the unit nearly three decades ago.

“These businesses are beginning a beach rally, but I believe this will soon become a town rally,” he said.

Selectman Rick Griffin said if enough funds are raised to continue to house the horses, he would be in favor of restoring funds for the unit in next year’s budget.

“I think it’s a great thing that they are doing,” Griffin said. “But I personally don’t think it should come back to the voters. They have already voted for it twice. How many times do they have to vote that they want the unit?”

Sullivan said the unit in the last year was more for show than active duty due to a lack of training for the horses and officers. To make the unit viable again, the chief said, it will take an “infusion of dollars.”

Former Hampton Patrol mounts Arrow, left, and Butch enjoy hay on a rainy day in the paddock at Runnymeade Farm in North Hampton on Saturday. [John Carden photo]