Doubt raised on trail safety

Assault last week was fourth this year on B&A system

November 09, 2008|By Julie Scharper | Julie Scharper,julie.scharper@baltsun.com

A brutal assault on a man walking in Glen Burnie last week - the fourth attack to occur on the scenic B&A Trail this year - has prompted worries about the safety of the trail and nearby parks.

"I see a lot of stuff going on in the neighborhood and sometimes it's kids who don't even live in this neighborhood," said Shearyl Clark, who lives near the park where the man was attacked.

But authorities say that the trail is frequently patrolled and point out that hundreds of thousands of people use the trail safely each year.

"Our B & A Trail system is the most-used amenity that we have in our park system," said Frank Marzucco, director of the county's recreation and parks department.

About 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, a 20-year-old Glen Burnie resident was walking along the trail near the intersection of Saunders Way and Ingalls Road when he was attacked by a group of boys and young men who beat him and stole his wallet and cell phone, county police said.

The man was beaten so severely that he was barely conscious when police arrived and was unable to provide a detailed description of his attackers. He was taken to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center with a head injury that was not considered life-threatening, police said.

Police have not released the victim's name.

In July, two Glen Burnie men were arrested after they tried to hold up a pair of county police officers patrolling the trail in the Harundale area at night. Both men wore ski masks, and one pulled a knife on the officers.

A month earlier, two men knocked a boy off his bike in the Pasadena section of the trail, dragged him to the grass and kicked, beat and choked him before taking money from his wallet.

And last November, a man walking on the trail near Marley Station Mall at night was beaten and robbed by a pair of young men.

Fans of the park say that the incidents are anomalies and more than a million people safely use the trail each year.

"People use the trails to get to and from work and school and church. In Severna Park, you see people walking with their groceries along the trail," said Elizabeth Wyble, president of the Friends of the Anne Arundel County Trails.

Many bike or hike along the trail, and even elderly and infirm people can exercise on the trail's flat, paved surface, she said.

The 13-mile trail was created about two decades ago along the former route of the Baltimore and Annapolis railroad, Marzucco said.

Gardens are planted along some sections of the trail, and Wyble's group is installing large sculptures representing the planets on the trail.

County police on bicycles patrol the trail throughout the day and night, said police spokesman Justin Mulcahy.

Park rangers walk and drive along the trail from 7 a.m. until the park closes at dusk, Marzucco said. Rangers complete monthly safety checks on the trail and county maintenance workers keep an eye out for suspicious activity as they work along the trail, he said.

Most the incidents that have happened on the trail occur after dark when the park is closed, Wyble said.

Residents near the site of Wednesday's attack said that they are concerned over a group of teenagers and young adults who congregate by the trail.

"There's a lot of stuff that goes on with people leaning over and talking to others in car windows," said James Battee, who lives nearby. "I've got a feeling that that's something drug-related."

Battee said that he has occasionally heard what he believes may be gunshots.

Clark said that the park has long been unsafe, and that she would not let her children, who are now grown, play there when they were younger.

"They need to have some kind of lights or something down there," she said.

She added that the trail has become more safe in the past few years and that she sees more people walking on it lately.

"I know a lot of people, to save gas, they're going out and walking now," she said.

However, she doesn't take any chances. She and her husband have put up a large fence between their property and the trail and installed security cameras on their garage to discourage vandals.

Police ask anyone with information about Wednesday's attack to call Metro Crime Stoppers, at 1-866-7LOCKUP. Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward.

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