Garfield sheriff: Hikers shouldn’t be deterred by exposure cases

CARBONDALE—Recreationists shouldn’t let reports of naked men and indecent exposures stop them from enjoying local trails, Garfield County Lou Vallario assured some Carbondale-area residents Tuesday night.

“Be a little more prepared, be a little more aware, take some precautions, but you need to do what you enjoy in life,” Vallario said at a meeting designed to update people on the incidents and cover means of self-protection.

Only five members of the public, all women, attended the event. One said she was a witness to one of the recent incidents, when she came across a man masturbating off the Rio Grande Trail, a local bike path.

“I’m just never going to hike alone anymore,” she said. “That’s sad because we moved to this beautiful valley, I built a beautiful house in a beautiful neighborhood and that’s my backyard.”

Vallario told those at the meeting, “You shouldn’t be afraid to do things in your life. You shouldn’t be afraid to do things in Garfield County.”

Sheriff officials say a spate of cases of indecent exposure on trails around Carbondale and in Glenwood Canyon began back in 2008. Several have been reported this spring on three Carbondale-area trails.

Authorities believe several men are involved, and are trying to determine if any of them are involved in multiple cases.

Vallario noted that none to date have involved crimes any worse than public indecency or indecent exposure.

“Right now we have no other reason to feel that we have anything more aggressive,” he said.

While there are rumors that a naked man chased one female hiker with a stick, sheriff’s officials said they have taken no such reports.

The sheriff’s office has been sending plain-clothed deputies on trails and using remote cameras as part of their investigation.

One camera produced a photo of an unclothed man and investigators released to the public an edited version showing him from the shoulders up. They since have identified him and have arranged to interview him.

The man, who also was seen walking, clothed, around Carbondale Tuesday, is only a suspect at this point and his name hasn’t been released.

Vallario said authorities aren’t ruling out the possibility that some of the incidents might involve some sort of ritualistic activity involving nakedness that hikers stumbled upon, but an indecency charge still would apply.

Sheriff’s spokeswoman Tanny McGinnis emphasized the importance of such precautionary actions as hiking with a partner or at least a dog, carrying a cell phone, screaming and reacting aggressively to any perceived threats, and reporting incidents immediately to authorities.

She said it’s also important not to focus just on the current concerns regarding trails, but to be prepared to act and protect one’s self from threats that might arise in everyday life.


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