C&O Trail emergency call boxes not maintained by National Park Service

The National Park Service (NPS) will no longer maintain emergency call boxes along the C & O trail despite a recent sexual assault in the area, according to Georgetown Patch.

The NPS says most people using the trail, which stretches from{ } Cumberland, Md. to Georgetown, carry cell phones and don't use the call boxes. The three call boxes are also outfitted with outdated technology, are difficult to maintain and are often used for pranks, Park Service officials told Georgetown Patch.

National Park Service Spokesman Bill Line said, "The call boxes are consistently vandalized. As soon as we repair them or maintain them, they're vandalized again."

Joanne Studer, who uses the trail, said she relies on her cellphone in the event of an emergency.

"...I've had to call for an ambulance,"she recalled, adding she's never used one of the emergency call boxes. "I don't even know where one is out here, truthfully, and I've been running out here for years."

The paths are generally safe, but there have been problems, including one sexual assault in late July when a female jogger was sexually assaulted near the Capital Crescent Trail. U.S. Park Police say the woman was jogging toward Georgetown when the suspect sneaked up behind her and began choking her.

The assailant was never caught.

And while new signs reflect the new technology, some want the NPS to keep the old.

Felicia Barnes, a runner ABC7 spoke with, said, "Female runners and other people of small stature that may not be able to defend themselves - they need that. If they're running without a cell phone, they need that option."

The NPS will post signs with the telephone number for the National Park Service dispatch on the call boxes.