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MISCHIEF MARKS THIS TRAIL

Authorities say the Pinellas Trail is a safe place, but graffiti and pranks are a problem.

It stretches 34 miles from Tarpon Springs to St. Petersburg and is monitored by more than 10 law enforcement agencies.

Those authorities say the Pinellas Trail is safe, making up less than 1 percent of the county's crime. But that doesn't mean it's problem-free.

Kathy Barile, a chief ranger on the trail, said the main complaint is mischief. Graffiti is one of their biggest challenges.

"When kids are out of school on Christmas break or during the summer, we usually see a lot," she said. "If they get ahold of any bottles or glass, they'll break it on the trail. It's little- kid-prank kind of stuff."

The rangers use cans of spray paint to cover up graffiti they find along the trail.

"If it's something profane, we usually cover it up as best we can and then come back later to finish," she said.

Under the overpass of Tyrone Boulevard near Tyrone Square Mall, there is graffiti on the Egyptian-themed murals bordering the trail. Barile said her agency will give the artist the option of touching up the mural to preserve the beauty along the trail. If the artist declines, rangers will paint it gray.

But mischief isn't the only complaint. Some agencies report suspicious people, runaway dogs and sleepers on the trail.

Tarpon Springs police recently added more security because they suspected a burglar was using the trail to hide.

Because of the increased patrols, police were able to catch the suspect, said Sgt. Barb Templeton of the Tarpon Springs Police Department.

During the day, rangers constantly roam the trail, picking up trash, covering up graffiti or enforcing the rules of the park. Barile said they have about 30 auxiliary rangers who volunteer to patrol the trail in the winter months.

When school is in session, rangers make an extra effort to patrol around schools that border the trail.

"We try and stick around the best we can because there are so many schools and neighborhoods," she said.

But reports of serious crime are rare, Barile said.

"I'm on here 10 hours a day, and I never ran into a personal attack," she said.

Nicole Bardo-Colon can be reached at 893-8779 or nbardo-colon@sptimes.com.

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