Table, benches removed from trail

By on May 4, 2016
Arrows on this photo indicate recent changes made to this area of the Ephrata Rail Trail at the  intersection of Queen Street.

Arrows on this photo indicate recent changes made to this area of the Ephrata Rail Trail at the
intersection of Queen Street.

Chief Harvey cites proper design and effective use of trail environment can lead to a reduction in problems

Concerns about inappropriate behavior along Ephrata’s linear trail boiled over following an April 2 brawl.

That incident, which preceded two other disturbing events on the trail, sparked a grass-roots effort culminated by residents packing last month’s Ephrata Borough Council meeting.

Residents articulated a long list of grievances: fights, extreme vulgar language, vandalism, graffiti, property damage, littering, even trespassing on private property.

Many of the group of 25 residents spoke to Police Chief William Harvey and Mayor Ralph Mowen who promised to examine their ideas.

Last weekend the borough, which is still looking into installing cameras along the Major Richard D. Winters Memorial Trail, decided to remove three benches and a picnic table in response to the resident’s input.

Borough workers removed the benches and table near the intersection of the trail and the East Queen Street basketball court.

Chief Harvey said Monday that borough staff and the police department have worked “closely with citizens, trail users, youth and staff.”

The staff reviewed the amenities along the trail area, with the input and the application of the Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, he said.

CPTED for short (pronounced sep-ted) holds that the proper design and effective use of the built environment can lead to a reduction in the fear and incidence of crime and an improvement in the quality of life.

“One of the outcomes was the removal of the picnic table (and benches),” Harvey said in an e-mail.

There was limited, if any, use observed, noted or mentioned for its intend design (of the benches and picnic table) “and was subject to misuse, for now it has been removed,” he noted.

Still, reaction to the removal of the table and benches was almost entirely negative on social media on Monday and Tuesday.

The basis of CPTED counts on small things — like cutting hedges to provide a clear view of a parking lot or sidewalk or leaving on a front porch light — to create an impression that there’s nowhere to hide. It creates the perception that undesirable users might be seen, which alone is often enough to deter crime.

Rose Cline noted on The Ephrata Review Facebook page that the benches were used and called the removal of the benches and table “a shame.”

“I can see the picnic table and even the basketball court being removed,” she wrote. “That was a hangout, but the benches were used by the walkers. The immature people that are the problem didn’t sit on the benches, they sit stretched out across the trail, as to interfere with the walkers and bike riders.”

Stephanie Greiner summed it up simply: “This is really making me sad!”

Betty Heydt, who had urged residents to speak out about their concerns and attend last month’s council meeting, said it’s “so sad that a few bad people spoil things for others.”

“We use this trail almost every night and it is always busy,” she wrote. “It was such a great addition to our community, sorry to see how much trouble it has been for our police and the community leaders.”

There are still many benches along the trail, including five near the East Queen Street intersection.

Patrick Burns is social media editor and staff writer for The Ephrata Review. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at pburns.eph@lnpnews.com or at 721-4455.

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