Lemon Park is popular meeting point for dog walkers and outdoor enthusiasts in Pratt.
What began as a simple walk, years ago, has evolved into a nightly tradition for four individuals who enjoy walking their dogs and enjoying the outdoors at Pratt’s Lemon Park.
“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 Pratt resident 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, also a Pratt resident, 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,” Hedrick. “I didn’t name him.”
Greg Vratil of Pratt has been walking his dog, Max, at Lemon Park for the past 17 years.
“I’m here nearly every day, unless it’s raining or a blizzard,” he said.
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 ½ years ago. However, the couple still stocks 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 said early spring and late fall were 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 year round.
“We walk 365 days a years, weather permitting, and may miss seven days a year overall,” said Detwiler. “We particularly like it when it’s still cool enough that the mosquitoes aren’t out and it’s not too humid.”
She estimated that she and her husband have walked over 9,000 miles since beginning their daily trek to Lemon 11 years ago.
Vratil noted the therapeutic advantages of walking his dog.
“It clears my head after work,” he said.
All four Prattans laud the health benefits of walking at Lemon Park year round and appreciate the work done by city crews to keep the sidewalks clean and the park gates open, especially during difficult weather seasons.