911 emergency boxes, park rangers keep MKT trail safe

In the wake of a murder near the trail in December, most people still visit and say they feel safe.
The MKT Trail still draws large numbers this spring. 911 emergency boxes are located after every eighth of a mile on the trail.

A murder near the MKT Trail in December might have left some feeling uneasy, but with spring approaching, attendance doesn’t seem to have decreased.

A system of 911 emergency boxes is among the precautionary measures the park uses to keep trail-goers safe. The boxes are located after every eighth of a mile.

In the wake of increased shootings around Columbia and the MKT Trail incident, knowing what to do when in a dangerous predicament is vital for everyone, Columbia Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Tammy Miller, said.

Timothy Ray Jones, 43, was reported dead on Dec. 20 after a jogger at the end of White Oak Lane called police to inform them he had seen a man lying unresponsive near the trail, according to a news release. Lacerations on Jones’ upper body classified his death as a homicide.

Despite this, senior Kelly Gehringer said she still feels safe on the trail. One incident shouldn’t stop people from going on the trail, she said.

“The best way to combat fear is to claim something like the MKT trail for ourselves,” she said. “We cannot show fear because if we do, it hands power to criminals, which should never happen.”

Junior Danielle Lordo said she thinks the trail still should do more to ensure safety, and if not, people need to be able to protect themselves.

“There should be no running past five if there are no lights installed on the trail,” she said. “I overall feel safe on the trail, but if I had to bring something to protect myself I would bring a pocket knife or a can of spray to protect myself. They also should have more patrol on the trail — something I don’t see a lot of but could be helpful in the long run.”

Miller also said though the murder on the trail caused some discomfort in the community, overall the parks are still being visited and the 911 emergency boxes are still available for anyone who needs them.

“We don’t have any safety issues as far as I know,” she said. “I believe that the emergency boxes are still in good condition and can be used for any incident.”

Gehringer said she hopes that others will learn how to stay safe and not be afraid based on one bad incident.

“There are too many stories about people not being so smart about how they protect themselves but many of the tips needed to protect you are common sense,” she said. “We should never let an isolated incident stop anyone, like myself, from doing fun things at places like this trail.”

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