Trail users to exercise safety
Yolanda Rodriguez - Staff
Thursday, August 3, 2006
Walk with buddies. Carry a big stick or Mace or even a concealed weapon.
In the wake of last week's slaying of Jennifer Ewing on the Silver Comet Trail, people who use it --- and love it --- are working on ways to keep it safe.
One man wants to organize bike patrols. A woman wants to put walkers in touch with each other so they can walk in groups.
"The thing that is wonderful about this trail is that it crosses all boundaries --- from young to middle to old age. Cyclists, walkers, runners, moms with baby carriages, Rollerbladers," said Darleen Walraven, 54, who was among three dozen people who gathered at a trailhead in Smyrna on Tuesday.
Ewing's slaying has touched just about everyone who uses the trail, she said.
"She's one of us," Walraven said. "I'm 54. She's 54. She came a lot. We come here a lot. It's just average people trying to stay healthy, enjoying nature. And now we just don't know what's lurking around the next corner. It's just taken away a sense of peacefulness."
They gathered at the same trailhead where Ewing set off on July 25 for her regular bike ride, which took her from Cobb to Paulding.
Michael William Ledford, 43, a convicted rapist, has been charged in Ewing's slaying. Police found Ewing's partially clothed body July 26, near the trail's mile marker 17 in Paulding County.
Chris Holley hopes cyclists will volunteer to patrol the trail. They would provide water or assistance to anyone in need and keep an eye out for anything or anyone that might mean danger.
"I want people to be able to feel safe down here," said Holley, who is hoping to call the team Trail Troopers.
Interest is high in staying safe.
Dianne Aurie Moore of Smyrna said that within a few days of creating a space for would-be walking buddies on meetup.com, 25 people sent messages saying they were interested in connecting. The group's first walk is scheduled for Saturday.
Cobb police officer Russell Creamer, who patrols the Silver Comet Trail, encouraged people to connect before heading out to the trail.
"Safety in numbers is the best thing I can recommend," Creamer said.
Some have already taken measures.
Marie Fields, 70, of Smyrna bought a "third eye" --- a small round mirror that attaches to the frames of her glasses. It allows her to see what's going on behind her.
Joan Bennett uses a branch as a walking stick and wears a whistle around her neck.
"Be aware," she said. "If they get me, they are going to have a fight on them."
Ellen Carroll, who rides frequently to Rockmart, said she is thinking about getting a small gun.
Riding through parts of the trail that don't have a lot of users "just doesn't feel good," said Carroll of Atlanta.
Hilda Tatom, 71, and Winnie Morse, 70, helped organize the meeting and were heartened by the turnout.
They hope to get a bulletin board soon for the trailhead to keep people informed.
Tatom suggested that people who use the trail in the evenings form safety groups too.
Ewing's slaying angered Kathy Hobbs.
"We are not in downtown Atlanta. We are not in New York City. We are in Smyrna, Georgia. I don't want to be intimidated off of the trail. ... There's too many people that love it, enjoy it. And we are going to do whatever it takes to take back the trail."