Since the addition of the Lunsford Foundation trail to Abilene Christian University in 2005, students have had a place to exercise and fellowship in community during evening hours. However, the Lunsford trail’s overall safety needs to be brought into consideration.
ACU Police Department’s Police Chief, Jimmy Ellison, has said the Lunsford is a very safe area with good lighting and a number of emergency phones intentionally placed around the trail. The trail is densely populated and so users of the trail are rarely alone or isolated.
Before the addition of the trail, people would walk or jog in the adjoining neighborhoods. These areas were less safe because they had poor lighting and not a lot of people around, Ellison said. Alternatively, the Lunsford is great for safety because of the quality lighting designed for safety and ambience that is not overly illuminating.
One issue with the lighting of the Lunsford is that several of the bulbs in the lamp posts have burned out. 15 out of the 119 posts are not working. This adds up when two or three in a row are out, especially on the outskirts of campus near Ambler Avenue. It is understandable that campus facilities management receives many work order requests, and for many more things than just light bulbs, but that does not change the fact that the darkness makes students feel uneasy.
One student, Tamara Shelton-King, Freshman Computer Science major from Bay City, does not enjoy having to run through the patches of darkness during her nightly jog. The stretches of dark sidewalk, especially near Ambler Ave. maker her feel uneasy, Shelton-King said.
Although the Lunsford is safe, it does not mean it is immune to crime, Ellison said. Female students who decide to run in the later evening, such as Shelton-King, should constantly be aware of their surroundings and go with friends, there is safety in numbers. Students should also remember to take a cell phone with them, if they have one. Even though there are 7 emergency blue phones on campus, students should not rely on them for their only means of communication. 3 of the 7 are currently out of order. One for technical issues, the other two are being serviced in order to run landlines to them.
The emergency blue phones are checked routinely, once a month. According to Ellison, the emergency blue phones are not used relatively often, there were only 40 calls the past year on the trail. Most of the calls were not police related emergencies, but rather incidents that range from lost-and-found items and children who curiously press the button. However, every time a phone is used, ACUPD will go out and check the site to ensure everything is all right, Ellison said.
Even though the Lunsford Foundation Trail is much safer than running the nearby neighborhoods, students needs to take their safety into their own hands. Despite the community aspect of the trail, the truth is not as many people will be running at 11 p.m. Students need to take their own precautions, such as sticking together, being constantly aware of their surroundings and having cell phones with them at all times.