Edmonton runners plan to take back trails after series of indecent incidents

Edmonton runners plan to come together to make river valley trails safer after more than a dozen indecent acts were reported over the past two months.

Organizers have planned two runs Friday dubbed "Take Back Our Trails" in response to 14 incidents reported to police since mid-July. 

The most recent incidents happened Tuesday afternoon, when a woman was accosted in Buena Vista Park by a man who exposed himself. An hour later, a man tried to grope a woman running in Emily Murphy Park.

Sonya Jongsma Knauss is among the runners who came up with the idea for Friday's event in an online discussion.

"My hope is that through raising awareness in this event that we can help find the perpetrator and take back the trails in Edmonton, so that everyone can feel safe," Jongsma Knauss said. 

Jessica Walker has been walking trails in the river valley for eight years.

"I haven't had any issues in the park or seen anything or had anything happen to me personally," Walker said Thursday, on her daily walk at Emily Murphy Park. "I guess that there's been so many, maybe if it's been around here it makes me a little wary. But I don't think I would stop coming."

Anyone interested in taking part  in the 6.6-kilometre run can meet at the Kinsmen Sports Centre. One group is scheduled to head out at 5 p.m. and a second group at 6:30 p.m.

Peter Evans/CBC

For those looking to connect with other runners to find safety in numbers, Jongsma Knauss suggested contacting one of the many local groups online including her own group, Need For Speed.

"I've run in a lot of different cities and places and Edmonton's river valley is a real treasure," said Jongsma Knauss, who at her peak this year was running 100 kilometres a week, a good portion of it in the river valley. 

"I think it's amazing, and I don't think anyone should have to feel unsafe running in it."

Police have increased patrols and released photos of a suspect. He is described as five-foot-six or five-foot-seven with dark skin and short, dark hair. He is thought to be between 30 and 40 years old.