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Safety zones added to Westgate park trails - Dothan Eagle: News

Safety zones added to Westgate park trails

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Posted: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 4:27 pm

City of Dothan officials recently completed the division of the trails at Westgate Park into eight different zones, making it easier for emergency personnel to respond to calls at the park.

Assistant Leisure Services Director Kim Meeker said the city started a new emergency access plan Wednesday, which included a division of the trails at Westgate Park into eight zones.

The zones will help emergency personnel quickly find people if they’re injured or in need of help on the trails. Meeker said there are 110 informational signs posted along the two trails about the zones.

Meeker called the zone divisions a combined safety effort and partnership between several City of Dothan departments, including police, fire, utility and leisure services.

Meeker said there are two trails at the park, a paved bicycle path with a distance of just over 3.2 miles and a dirt walking and running trail approximately 3.3 miles long. For safety reasons, officials encourage people not to mix usage on the trails.

“The walkers and runners are not allowed on the bike trail. We’re afraid either party could be injured,” Meeker said. “People who use the trail a lot want to see people obey the rules so it’s consistently safe for everybody.”

Dothan Fire Chief Larry Williams said some of the medical calls responded to by paramedics involve people not following the rules posted along the two trails at Westgate Park.

Williams, who uses the trails on average six times a week, has noticed how pedestrians still use the paved bicycle path. He said he even sometimes sees people with strollers using the paved bicycle path. He said the trails have the potential to be dangerous if people don’t follow the rules.

“It puts the bikers and pedestrians at risk and that concerns me,” Williams said. “We want everybody to be able to use the trail and stay safe.”

Williams recalled one critical medical call to the trail which left a female cyclist with a broken leg. He said emergency personnel responded to the trail to help the cyclist, who had pedaled around a curve and ended up striking a tree and landing on some rocks to avoid a pedestrian walking toward her on the bike path.

Williams said there was no delay in the response time for emergency personnel getting to the women on the trail, but there was some confusion.

“We treat this park almost like a ski patrol treats a mountain,” Williams said.

Williams said paramedics and emergency personnel have not experienced any delay in response times to patients using the trails at Westgate Park. He also said they have an all terrain vehicle stationed at the nearby Westgate fire station.

Meeker said the dirt path was designed and made with soil cement, which holds up well for walkers, runners and people using strollers. Meeker also encouraged people who use a stroller to use the Kiwanis Park trail, which is a one half mile loop located on the north side of the park, off of Whatley Drive.

“People using a stroller are still considered a pedestrian,” Meeker said.

Williams said one of the reasons for the city designing and developing the bicycle path at the park was to give bicyclists a place to bike off the streets, away from vehicles.

Meeker said the city often hosts 5K races and other similar events that bring in larger crowds of people to the trails. Meeker also said the trails have the highest usage of all recreational activities within the city since their usage is daily.

Meeker said on an average day around 500 people use the trails, but on a busy day that number often increases to close to 1,000.

“Statistics show in Alabama walking is the number one most popular recreational activity,” Meeker said.