If you visit Lemon Park, regardless of the time of year, it's likely you'll encounter four local residents out walking and enjoying the wonders of Pratt's premiere park. What began as a simple walk, years ago, has evolved into a nightly tradition for these four individuals. 'We have a meet up in the park with […]

If you visit Lemon Park, regardless of the time of year, it's likely you'll encounter four local residents out walking and enjoying the wonders of Pratt's premiere park.
What began as a simple walk, years ago, has evolved into a nightly tradition for these four individuals.
'We have a meet up in the park with our doggie friends every night. We meet at one of the benches in the park,' said Karen Detwiler.
John and Karen Detwiler have been walking from their home on 6th Street to Lemon Park and back since 2008, when John retired from working for the railroad. Back then, they had a Burmese Mountain dog named Parker.
Steve Hedrick figures that he has walked in the park for almost 40 years, the past 26 of those with two different dogs. Ricci Bobby has joined Hedrick on his daily walks over the past 11 years.
'I got him from the Lucky Dog program out of Hutchinson when he was two. The prisoners train the dogs to be companion dogs. Then, they adopt them out,' said Hedrick, adding, 'I didn't name him.'
Greg Vratil has been walking his dog, Max, at Lemon Park for the past 17 years, 'nearly every day, unless it's raining or a blizzard,' he added.
Vratil used to walk Max two to three miles a day but had to cut that back to one mile in 2012, when his buddy was diagnosed with a heart condition. 'He may have been misdiagnosed,' Vratil said, noting the dog's longevity.
The lives of these four Pratt residents quite literally intersected due to their shared interests of Lemon Park, walking, and dogs.
'Dogs have a way of helping you to become acquainted with others,' said Detwiler.
The Detwilers lost their beloved Parker 2 years ago. However, the couple still stock up on dog biscuits for the nightly rendezvous with their friends.
Hedrick began walking Ricci Bobby twice a day since retiring as a CPA ten years ago.
'Walking down at the park is so much more enjoyable than getting on a stationary treadmill,' he said.
Like Vratil, Hedrick had to cut back his aging dog's daily mileage.
'My dog's getting older. His joints just can't handle walking more than about a mile at a time,' he said.
Vratil lists 'early spring and late fall' as his favorite times to walk through Lemon Park.
'Max absolutely hates the heat now, but he still does it,' he said.
All four humans, and their dogs, are dedicated walkers, who give the city a reason to keep the sidewalks clear, year round.
'We walk 365 days a years, weather permitting, and may miss seven days a year overall,' said Detwiler. She estimated that she and her husband have walked over 9,000 miles since beginning their daily trek to Lemon 11 years ago.
Detwiler added that spring is the couple's favorite time of year to walk in Lemon Park, 'when it's still cool enough that the mosquitoes aren't out and it's not too humid.'
Hedrick echoed Detwiler's sentiments about the advantages of spring walking, adding, 'During the winter, it's almost better than summer, as there's no mosquitoes.'
Vratil noted the therapeutic advantages of walking his dog.
'It clears my head in the evening after work,' he said.
While all four Prattans laud the health benefits of walking at Lemon Park year round, the dogs' motivation may have something to do with that stop at the park bench.
In any case, these local residents have formed a friendship that spans the years and the seasons.