Learning from three trail incidents

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In early August, a young male was observed riding back and forth on the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail between the State Road 13 and County Road 43 on a moped. Besides the illegality of riding a motorized vehicle on the trail, the person was also harassing other trail users. Those trail users called the police, and they arrested the person for riding a motorized vehicle on the trail.

Around the same time, two men set up a table at the County Road 37 parking lot to distribute religious materials to trail users, not understanding that it is illegal to sell or distribute literature in a public park. And I recently heard about a cyclist who was traveling at a high speed and ran into the side of a car crossing the trail at Sunrise Lane (where cars have the right of way) damaging the door of the car, and then somehow managed to speed away without taking responsibility for the damage he caused to the car–a thoughtless case of hitting and running.

These types of incidents are, fortunately, rare on the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail. In the 18 years since the first 1.75 miles of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail opened in 2000, there have been very few illegal or anti-social activities reported. Indeed, the trail is one of the safest parks in the area. Most cyclists, walkers and runners are considerate of others and anti-social behavior is rare.

Yet, as these three incidents illustrate, there are a few people in our society who are inconsiderate of others (e.g., the speeding cyclist), unaware of trail rules (e.g., no solicitation or sales on trail property) or are acting illegally (e.g., riding a motorized vehicle on the trail). And even though park staff patrol the Pumpkinvine on a regular basis, it is important for all trail users to be alert to illegal or anti-social behavior.

What should you do if you see such activities on the Pumpkinvine?
1. First, do not attempt to be the police. It is not your job to enforce trail rules. If you observe illegal activity on the trail, you should call 911, report what you saw, and give them the time and location of the incident.
2. If you see someone breaking the posted park rules (like putting up a sign advertising a house for sale, handing out literature or riding over 15 mph or recklessly), report the incident to the appropriate managing agency with as much detail as possible. A list of agencies and their contact information is found on page 5 of this newsletter. It would help to take a photo of the incident as well.

Finally, the best way for us to keep the Pumpkinvine safe is to use it often and demonstrate good walking and cycling behavior. Cyclists should alert walkers to their presence with a bell (a legal requirement for cyclists in Indiana) and announcing that they are “passing on the left.” Walkers can be considerate by not walking three abreast, blocking the trail and turning down their music so they can hear a cyclist’s bell and their words, “passing on the left.” Together we can keep the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail a safe place to exercise and enjoy nature.