Lighting problems darken Katy Trail in Dallas

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by MONIKA DIAZ

WFAA

Posted on August 26, 2010 at 11:55 PM

Updated Saturday, Aug 28 at 8:31 AM

DALLAS — Hundreds of people use the Katy Trail in Dallas every day; but for weeks now, it has been a risky run at night.

The lights are out along one section of the 3.5-mile trail.

"We love running around here, but we just don't want to, you know, be in the dark," said Rebecca McCauley, who uses the trail daily.

Some bikers, runners and walkers noticed the problem weeks ago.

"At night, when it is starting to get dark, they don't come on as early as I think they should, if they come on at all," said runner Stephanie Crook.

Copper thieves targeted the light poles twice in the last nine months. The first time, a company donated its services and paid for the repairs, but the second time, the non-profit organization that maintains the trail — Friends of the Katy Trail — had to take on the expense.

The bill was nearly $14,000.

"We had to come up with the money ourselves," said Robin Baldock, executive director of Friends of the Katy Trail. "We take that money from our operating budget to make those repairs."

Baldock told News 8 the money issue and new security improvements delayed repairs. Crews have installed tamper-proof plates and they are also planning to cover conduit boxes with wire cages to prevent future copper thefts.

The organization told us all the lights had been fixed, but News 8 discovered this week that near the south end of the trail, more than a dozen light poles are still not working.

Baldock says the problem is a mystery.

"We are troubleshooting, looking at the controls, at the sensors," she said. "It's another problem that we are trying to figure out what's going on there."

The organization says safety is a priority and it wants to find a solution soon.

"We don't want to be sub-standard on anything," said Baldock. "We have a lot of people who use and love the trail. We want them to feel safe and enjoy their experience."

Some runners hope the fix comes sooner than later.

"Hopefully, they will turn the lights on; it's a place that should feel safe running," said Stephanie Crook. "It's a big part of Dallas, so I feel everybody should be able to utilize it at any point of the day."

According to the Dallas Police Department, crime is down on the trail, and officers continue to patrol the area.

Friends of the Katy Trail pays for the majority of the maintenance along the former railroad right-of way —  from landscaping to lighting.

The City of Dallas owns the trail, but donations to FOTKT fund daily operations. The organization plans on launching a new fundraising campaign next week and is also looking for volunteers.

E-mail mdiaz@wfaa.com

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