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Community trail 

The ribbon of asphalt called the American Tobacco trail is one of the best things about Durham. Sun-splashed and shade-dappled, it passes through the heart of the city but is often flanked by verdant, seemingly impenetrable woods that belie the adjacent urban development. Soon the tobacco trail will be connected to other parts of the North-South Greenway trail system when the downtown section, a missing link in the network, is completed. This inviting, off-road pathway will join neighborhoods in far-flung parts of Durham, enticing us to visit each other's communities and perhaps become more united in the process.

The tobacco trail beckons me to get off my couch and out of my car--to get closer to nature, to other Durham residents, and to the well-toned, physically fit specimen I aspire to be. My excursions on the trail have been filled with treasured moments. I remember when a bunny raced alongside me for several moments, both of us worried about what the other might do. One day I saw a bird so startlingly blue that I wondered if perhaps it could be the Indigo Bunting I'd heard about but never seen. And then there have been the smiles from fellow trail users, connecting me to the diverse community in this city that I call home.

As a single woman, I often skate or bike alone on the tobacco trail. I enter the trail from my home in southern Durham and head north toward downtown, passing through a variety of neighborhoods and landscapes. I've primarily used the trail for recreation and exercise, although I'll try commuting to work in downtown Durham on the trail soon. The idea is very appealing, with many great benefits. Less gas! More money! Tighter buns!

But recently a woman who was cycling alone on the trail was mugged at 7 p.m. Her bike was stolen and she suffered some scrapes and bruises, but thankfully that's all. I mentioned this incident to a female friend, who responded that the woman shouldn't have ridden alone on the tobacco trail in the evening. I strenuously object to this philosophy, because I believe the responsibility for a crime rests squarely on those who commit it, not on the victim. Under Daylight Savings Time, the sun is plenty high in the sky at that hour, and we should all be safe to use the trail for after-work activities.

I refuse to live in fear and won't be discouraged from using the tobacco trail. In fact, I believe we should take back our trail from those who would steal it! We can increase our usage of the trail so that thugs won't consider it a welcoming venue for criminal activities. We can also create a strong sense of community on the tobacco trail. We can smile and wave at the people we pass, making the trail a very friendly place and creating positive energy that can spill over into the larger community. I, for one, will do my part. See you on the trail!

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