KINGSTON -- A community group is trying to raise money to help keep the Kingston Police Force’s Mounted Unit.

The Mounted Unit, operated by Kingston police, has existed for more than 20 years. The division patrols the streets on horseback.

Murney, an 11-year-old horse, is one of two horses that can patrol the city with rider Const. Sara Groenewegen, focusing on community outreach and safety measures.

"We can do the parks, we’re downtown, we’re doing school visits, when COVID wasn’t that bad we were doing community events," says Groenewegen of all the ways Murney is utilized in the city.

Under COVID-19 restrictions, the Mounted Unit was facing sudden cuts.

Bev Allinson is co-owner of the Confederation Place Hotel, and is on the board of directors with the Downtown Kingston! BIA. She says the group immediately made plans to see Murney’s work continue.

"Kingston citizens love to come up to her and talk to her and pet her and that sort of thing. She brings joy into their life," explains Allinson. "We had to jump on our horse, so to speak, and start fundraising to keep Murney on the streets for the summer."

Groenewegen says Murney brings more than just a smile to residents, she brings officers and the public together. 

"The community is very engaged when they see Murney," she says.  "They come up to you, they approach you but as a result you start talking to them and building a report with them."

The program is trying to raise $75,000. Allinson says that will go towards everything from insurance, to boarding, and training for the two horses for the next two years.

Groenewegen says the Mounted Unit is the last remaining one in Eastern Ontario, and is only one of three in the entire province.

She says the division is an important one for public safety as well. 

"When I’m sitting on her I can see probably see about two to three blocks away," she explains. "And that actually helps with missing persons and crowd control. We utilize that position to see into crowds, to see what's happening on down the street."

Fundraising will continue for at least a year

In a statement, Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson says he’s heard from the community that it would be a "significant loss." 

"I’m pleased that we can now offer a way for the community to support the unit in ways that are convenient for donors," he writes. "There’s no doubt that Murney provides unique value in the Kingston community and creates space for learning opportunities and a greater dialogue among residents and police."