Anchorage trail plan unveiled

Posted: Wednesday, September 03, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) Municipal officials unveiled details of a new trail patrol program that they hope will field more than 1,000 volunteer patrollers by spring.

Trail Watch has been in the works for about five weeks. The program follows five attempted sexual assaults on city trails over the summer and will begin Sept. 15, said Heather Handyside, city director of community relations.

A budget shortfall and a promise of more cuts next year have left the city unable to professionally patrol on a wide scale the city's roughly 120 miles of paved trails.

Limited volunteer patrols will operate through the winter, then increase in the spring. The city is sponsoring orientation sessions next week, Handyside said.

Trail Watch will have two tiers of volunteers.

''Trail watchers'' will patrol where and when it is convenient for them and report activities they see on the trails as necessary.

''Trail ambassadors'' will be ''a little bit more hardcore,'' Handyside said. They will let the city know when and where they will be patrolling so that information can be posted for trail users. The ambassadors will compile reports at the end of each patrol, attend training sessions and use the trails at least weekly, she said.

All volunteers will be required to carry their own cell phones and wear bright green armbands, Handyside said. The armbands will have ''Trail Watch'' written across them in black letters.

''If you see someone out there with the armband, give them a high five,'' Handyside said.

The aim of the volunteers is to promote safety and prevent crime by their visibility. They are not expected to police the trails, Handyside said.

The city hopes to have 100 ambassadors and 1,000 trail watchers volunteering by spring.

Recruitment has not begun and already the city has heard from about 100 people who want to help be the eyes and ears of the police on the trails.

The Arctic Bicycle Club and the Anchorage Police Department Auxiliary Search Team already have been acting as ambassadors.

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