The Mesa County Sheriff's Office asks you to keep your eyes open and stay aware when walking Western Colorado's various trails. This comes on the heels of a recent incident involving unwanted sexual contact on the Audubon portion of the Riverfront Trail.

Last Tuesday afternoon between 3:30 and 4:00, a female walker noticed a man following her closely along the trail. The male made physical contact with the woman. Fortunately, she was quick to act and managed to get away without injury.

According to the Mesa County Sheriff's Office, the suspect is described as:

  • Young
  • African American
  • Short hair
  • 5'6" to 5'7"
  • Roughly 150 pounds
  • Wearing a blue and white striped Polo shirt and blue jeans

He appeared to be well groomed and more than likely was not a transient. Following the incident, it is possible the suspect has an injury on the left side of his face.

This is heartbreaking to me. I walked this exact same portion of the Riverfront Trail twice withing 48 hours of this incident. While it's hard to draw any kind of estimate, it is safe to say my walks along this trail easily exceed 650 visits over the last six years. In all those walks, I've never witnessed the slightest problem. Okay, so there has been the occasional weirdo or two. That, though, is a fact of life and could happen anywhere at anytime.

While local trails are nothing short of awesome, it is wise to maintain a healthy degree of caution. It has happened; I get distracted with my walk, and before I know it the sun has gone down, it's pitch black, and my vehicle is two miles in the opposite direction.

My walking gear does include a quality flashlight, and I'm not too proud to say it, mace. While it is probably in your best interest not to catch yourself along on the trail after dark, or anywhere else for that matter, it does occasionally happen. Be cautious of the time, your distance from where you set out, and your surroundings.

At this time, the Mesa County Sheriff's Department is increasing patrols in the area. They would like to make the following suggestions to those who hike local trails.

  • Remain aware of your surroundings
  • Carry a cell phone at all times
  • Try to walk in groups.
  • Let people know you will be walking the trails, and let them know what time to expect you back.
  • Take a water bottle or walking stick - either of which can be used for defense.
  • Be cautious about wearing headphones. If possible, keep one earbud out so you can hear what's happening around you.

Personally, I would recommend not wearing headphones. Part of the magnificence of our trails would be the accompanying sounds. It's amazing what you'll hear so long as you keep your ears open.

If you have any information involving this recent incident, contact the Mesa County Sheriff's Office at (970) 242-6706. You can also call Crime Stoppers at 241-7867.

Please don't let this put you off from the idea of using our trails. Thousands of people use them every week, and incidents are rare. A little extra precaution will go a long way.