Everett residents spring to action after trail attack

By KATE REARDON

Herald Writer

EVERETT — It’s a crusade.

Paulene Watson and Matt Thompson haven’t formally met yet. But both are in vigorous pursuits to make a difference in the community after the brutal stabbing of a 14-year-old girl along the city’s Interurban Trail on Monday.

Neither know the family of the recovering girl, but each are working on ways to improve the trail. Ideas are to add lighting or signs, cut overgrown weeds and tree limbs or even install emergency kiosks with speaker phones along the trail.

"One thing I’m really afraid of is that I don’t want it to be one of those things where in two months from now nobody cares," Watson said, adding that she’s talked to dozens of people who want to help. "Somebody has to do something."

Thompson has done a lot of legwork since Monday’s attack. He’s made phone calls to decision makers, visited the trail and made lists of possible improvements.

Officials from Snohomish County PUD, the state Department of Transportation and the city police and parks departments will meet Monday to talk about a plan to make some changes along the trail, said Neil Neroutsosc, PUD spokesman.

Bob Cooper, city parks director, said the city is open to ideas and is considering adding signs that say the trail is closed from dusk to dawn.

At this point, Cooper said he has concerns over installing lighting there, however.

"Lighting that path may encourage people to use it at hours that we don’t want them out there anyway," he said. "We actually don’t want people on the trail in the dark."

Watson said safety issues are a community problem. Community members need to lead the fight for change so the city knows what direction to take, she said.

"I’m afraid to walk down those trails, but the trail is a great idea," she said, adding that maybe volunteers could patrol the area.

Watson said emergency kiosks are a great idea; the direct voice links to police have become popular at college campuses such as Everett Community College.

EvCC spokesman Pat McClain said the college installed five kiosks a few years ago.

The 10-foot or 12-foot tall kiosks are lighted, include Braille and have an emergency button and speaker. Someone can push the button and have a direct link to security, he said.

That’s helpful, because so many people walk the EvCC campus at all hours, including students taking night classes or children walking in the mornings to a nearby elementary school.

Each kiosk costs about $5,000.

"It’s comforting to know you have security … that if something is amiss, you can get ahold of somebody," McClain said.

Eastmont resident Thompson has worked his phone all week trying to find partnerships among the community and various agencies.

"Kids are important," he said. "We’ve got kids who are at risk, and now we’ve got kids getting hurt. If it was a random act of violence, that’s even worse yet."

Thompson suggested an adopt-the-trail program, getting the right people together to clear the brush and clean out the litter in the woods nearby.

He also suggested improving existing trails that link the neighborhoods to the Interurban along a 12-block stretch near where the girl was attacked. That way, Thompson said, people could get off the trail if they needed to.

"Open up access, and that will discourage (transient) camping," he said.

Thompson said he learned some surprising news on Thursday when he stopped and talked to a man drinking alcohol and walking along the trail a little past noon. Joggers and walkers use the trail for recreation. But transients use it as a north and south thoroughfare, he learned.

"I had an opportunity to talk about what was happening on the trail," he said. "There are a lot of areas between here and Seattle where homeless folks are hanging (out)."

Thompson said he hopes more people join in efforts to make the community safer.

"It’s unfortunate that you have to have an incident before people come together," he said. "If you’ve got good ideas, make sure people know what they are."

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