OLYMPIA - Thurston County Parks and Sheriff officials urge citizens to take basic safety precautions when using county trails and parks. In response to the assault and murder of Vanda Boone on the Chehalis-Western Trail near Tenino earlier this month, county officials give the following advice and information.
Chief Criminal Deputy Jim Chamberlain advises park and trail users to follow the same precautions one would use in everyday situations anywhere. "Be aware of your surroundings. A sense of awareness is one of the most important things you can have to protect yourself. If you see something unusual or suspicious, leave immediately," says Chamberlain. He adds these safety tips: Avoid walking or biking alone at any time but especially at night. Always go in a group or with at least one other adult.
Plan ahead: Tell someone where you're going and when you expect to be back. Consider carrying some type of personal protection device, such as a whistle, pepper spray or any other legal type of protection. Be sure to carry a cell phone.
The county trail system is routinely monitored says County Parks Manager Kerry Hibdon. "At least once a week, we drive the entire 35 miles of our developed trail system, checking for anything out of order, such as litter, downed trees, vandalism or homeless encampments."
Parks staff is also on call twenty-four hours a day, year-round to respond immediately to downed or damaged signs, abandoned cars and other potentially dangerous situations.
Hibdon urges the public to report damage to the trail or its facilities, or suspicious people on county trails or in the parks by calling Parks at 786-5595, or calling 911 on weekends and after normal business hours. "Much of the daily intelligence about our facilities comes directly from the public. They're our eyes and ears on the trails and in the park. Together, we can keep our trails and parks safe and healthy places for our community."
More information on personal safety can be found at the Thurston County Sheriff's online at www.co.thurston.wa.us/sheriff/community-outreach/. Information on Thurston County Parks is available at www.co.thurston.wa.us/parks.