Violence near the Appalachian Trail recently has raised trail-safety issues, especially in light of warming weather that is enthusing outdoors lovers.
On May 8, two fishermen were shot while camping a couple miles from a shelter where the suspected gunman killed two Appalachian Trail hikers in 1981.
On May 3, a female Appalachian Trail hiker told authorities she was abducted and sexually assaulted when a man offered her a ride to the post office in Troutville.
The U.S. Forest Service has 11 law enforcement officers for 1.8 million acres for the George Washington and Jefferson National forests. The service also has a cooperative agreement with local sheriff’s departments to patrol heavily populated areas, said Eric Smith, a forest service law enforcement officer stationed at Natural Bridge.
Smith said the forest areas are relatively safe. The bulk of violations right now are off-road vehicle violations, alcohol and drugs, as well as sanitation violations.
But the officers mainly patrol in their vehicles, not on the hiking trails.