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Hit the trails but use caution

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Get out and exercise on any of our beautiful trails whether they are rail-trails, hiking trails, park trails or just paths next to rivers and streams. The trails are a great place to exercise, relax or take your dog for a walk.

Our trails are relatively safe, used and enjoyed by many. But beware of potential problems and risks from overgrown vegetation, trail washouts from storms, wildlife and from shady characters looking for mischief. Enjoy the trails but please be smart and stay safe.

It’s always best to stay on the immediate trail. Poison ivy is abundant along many trails including the Delaware & Lehigh Heritage Trail (D&L Trail). Stepping off the trail could find you stumbling from a sinkhole and could cause you to sprain an ankle or even fall. Ticks love high grasses next to trails and the presence of wasp and hornet nests are a real possibility.

It is best to not travel alone on many of the trails which travel through secluded areas. Too many females go walking or jogging alone, definitely a recipe for disaster. It is always best to carry a whistle, a cell phone to call for help and to carry pepper spray or mace which can be used if attacked by an unruly dog, by other wildlife or in self-defense against other people.

Hit the trails during daytime hours and when lots of people are present. Still, daylight and the presence of other users is not always a deterrent for those who really want to cause problems. Always be aware of your surroundings and try to avoid areas where a potential problem could arise. Don’t wear headphones which can mute sounds from anyone or thing approaching. And look at your surroundings when walking, not your text messages. Many a person has tripped while being focused on their cell phone.

If you are alone and feel uneasy about your surroundings look for others and ask if you could tag along or find a place of business where there are others available to help.

Numerous reports of both verbal and physical attacks go unreported because people are either scared or ashamed to report them.

Just last week there was a late morning attempted robbery on the Lehigh Canal Towpath (D&L Trail) in the City of Bethlehem near the Minsi Trail Bridge by two teenagers with a gun. Both were apprehended by police who responded quickly from 911 calls made by the victim and several passing trail users.

In July, 2012 a teenager was arrested after firing a gun into the Lehigh River in Bethlehem Township near the Freemansburg border. The area with rope swings is used by many teenagers and some 20-year-olds who swing out into the river. Youths sometimes leave their bikes on the towpath trail or simply stand in the way impeding the many bike riders who use this popular section of the D&L Trail.

Recently, there have been two incidents on the Karl Stirner Arts Trail in Easton. One was a break-in of a car last week at the parking lot on N. 13th Street. Two youths were seen running from the scene after a window was smashed and a purse was stolen. The other one was when a female running along the trail during the afternoon in mid-May was knocked down and punched by a Hispanic male.

In 2012, a teenager was killed and another one was wounded following a self-defense shooting by a man who was riding his bicycle on the Thun Trail along the Schuylkill River near Reading in Berks County. The Thun Trail in the Reading area, especially at the Schuylkill River pedestrian bridge off Riverfront Drive has had its’ share of problems mostly from gangs of teens.

It is highly advised if you go there, do it with several other people because when you ride by yourself, you're more vulnerable. Reading police have stepped up patrols but occasional assaults still continue.

Firearms are not allowed on certain public properties such as parks and trails, but it becomes a shady area when you carry a gun permit and a weapon which would be used for self-defense. Facing a fine for defending yourself is a small price to pay if losing your life or being severely injured by an attack is eminent. If people have a permit, they have a right to carry a firearm.

Many dogs owners don’t keep their dogs on a leash while on trails and in parks even though it is usually the law. The excuse; oh, they won’t bite. Really? Many a dog has attacked people or other dogs in parks and on the trails because their owner thought they knew it all. In the past year, at a local county park a dog charged someone who had a concealed handgun. Let’s just say it ended fortunately only with citations being issued. That dog has had past issues biting other leashed dogs and running out of control, which it still does because of the stupidity of the asinine owner and the lack of enforcement by authorities.

Vandalism and littering constantly plaque workers and volunteers who tend the trails. Last summer a refurbished shelter along the D&L Trail near the Bethlehem-Allentown border was burned by vandals. So if you see someone committing an act of vandalism please report it to authorities.

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