LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The Lufkin Parks and Recreation Department has begun a project they hope will address safety concerns on The Azalea Trail.
The Azalea Trail is a 1.9-mile trial that runs from Grace Dunne Richardson Park to Kiwanis Park. The park is heavily wooded and over the years, it has picked up a reputation of not being safe. Several incidents have been reported to police over the years that include everything from an attempted sexual assault on Jan.1, 2016 and several indecent exposures in 2013 according to Lufkin Police records.
Mike Akridge, the City of Lufkin's parks and recreation director, said the department wanted to listen to concerns of runners and decided to use budgeted funds to make safety upgrades to the running paths.
"On the safe side, the City of Lufkin is trying to solve that by mulching and cleaning the underbrush on each side of the trail," Akridge said. "We will be clearing out about 10 to 12 feet on the sides of the paths."
Runners on the trail were excited about the news.
"It is great they are doing this," Diana Bucio said. "It's kind of scary. It is a big concern. We usually have to find a couple of group of girls to come out here or spouses to be by us."
Akridge said the department is also updating the lighting to LED lights that will be brighter and have better quality.
With all the upgrades, runner Miram Lira said she will still be cautious when on the trail.
"I just pay attention around each corner," Lira said. "Everywhere I turn, I look back and make sure nobody's behind me, or I'm not in anybody's way. I take off my earphones every now and then just to make sure there are no strange sounds."
Akridge said the project should take about a month to finish.
"All it takes is a bad instance a couple of years ago, and it follows what it is, but we're doing everything we can," Akridge said.
Akridge added that the staff is also trying to keep the trail clean but it is not always easy.
"We're constantly having to come in and clean stuff up on the trail," Akridge said. "You know we ask anyone to come in and pick up after yourself."