THE WAY TO SK8ATE: AVOID THE RAILROAD TRACKS

June 22, 2001 11:00 pm
SIGN OF THE TIMES: Union Facific Railroad Police Officer Dan Woolstenhulme adjusts one of what will be 35 new no-trespassing signs being installed at the La Grande railroad yard. Crossing the yard to or from the skate park at Pioneer Park is both illegal and very dangerous, railroad officials said. (The Observer/T.L. PETERSEN).
SIGN OF THE TIMES: Union Facific Railroad Police Officer Dan Woolstenhulme adjusts one of what will be 35 new no-trespassing signs being installed at the La Grande railroad yard. Crossing the yard to or from the skate park at Pioneer Park is both illegal and very dangerous, railroad officials said. (The Observer/T.L. PETERSEN).

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

Anytime is train time, warns John H. Myers, captain of the Union Pacific Railroad Police Department.

It was a message he was delivering one person at a time Thursday to people attempting to cross the Union Pacific railroad tracks near the new La Grande Sk8te Park.

Thursday, that was all it was a warning. But it could soon become an expensive ticket for trespassing on the railroads private property. If railroad police issue a ticket for trespassing, the bail is $175, with fines and possible jail time as a penalty.

Myers isnt really concerned about how people feel about the tickets; hes trying to prevent injuries and save lives.

Wed like people to understand that trespassing across the tracks is a Class A misdemeanor, Myers said. Its illegal and dangerous.

Rail yards are extremely unforgiving, said Myers, patrolling between the skate park and the railroad tracks with officer Dan Woolstenhulme. He said that not long ago, an 8-year-old Nampa, Idaho, boy lost a leg in an accident in a train yard. In the mid-1990s, he recalls a man losing a leg in a train accident at the La Grande yard.

While there havent been any recent injuries at the La Grande yard, the opening of the skate park has increased the number of people walking or riding bicycles across the tracks, increasing the danger.

Thursday morning, Myers was surprised to find skaters at the skate park before 8 a.m. By 1 p.m., he and other railroad police officers had stopped and talked to 11 people, from a 5-year-old to a woman in her late 50s.

The people are all very good, Myers said, and all but one were local people.

Most were heading to or from the skate park, two were in the rail yard to watch trains, and a mother and son were crossing the tracks on business of their own.

Although almost everyone the railroad officers talked to Thursday was cooperative, the officers are still worried and want people to stay away.

In the last three months, Myers said, there have been three real close calls reported by engineers.

Part of the problem is that people go around or through a parked train, not realizing a moving train may be just inches away on the other side of the parked train.

With 18 to 24 trains moving through La Grande every 24 hours, there isnt a safe time to cross the tracks, either.

Union Pacific Railroad has put up 20 no-trespassing signs along the edges of the La Grande rail yard in recent months and is adding 15 more in the next few weeks. It is also planning more regular patrols by its own police officers and is hoping to work more closely with local police.

Wed like to see the fence the city put in (behind the skate park) completed, Myers said, nodding to the chain link fence that borders part of the railroads access path. Hed also like to see the fence topped with barbed wire, since railroad police have seen the

fence being climbed by young

people.

Union Pacific also plans to erect a barrier near a dirt road access near the skate park.

Before school released for the summer, Myers noted, flyers were sent home with all students warning them to stay away from the rail yard.

Myers is trying to add to that reminder for the safety of all those walking through the rail yard.

A lot of people dont realize its illegal to be out on the tracks, he said.

And it is dangerous. These accidents are 100 percent preventable. Use the overpass.