TYLER, Texas — During the day, the lights at Rose Rudman Park serve little purpose. However, in the early morning and late evening hours, the lights throughout the trails are a matter of public safety.
"The part I walk is really well lit," said Smith County Commissioner Cary Nix. "Most of the lights are working 99.9 percent of the time. Sometimes, they'll have some issues."
Nix is a regular face at the park. He religiously walks the trails every morning. While doing so, he keeps an eye out for any safety issues that should be addressed.
"Mainly, I call the city of Tyler if the lights are out; just safety issues," Nix said. "If I see something, I'll try to let them know, because more eyes on the ground kind of helps the people who are not there every day."
As a county commissioner, Nix has no input in maintenance or security at Rose Rudman Park. All parks within the Tyler city limits are maintained by the city.
"It’s the same way out in the county," Nix said. "I appreciate people telling me when there’s an issue, and I’m just trying to help the city of Tyler out.”
Nix says it is too often that he sees visitors of the park not exercising awareness while running or walking.
"I see ladies running by themselves with earbuds on and loud music," Nix said. "They're not aware of their surroundings. There are several older people like myself that walk over there early in the morning, and of course, we've got protection."
According to city staff, there are 45 light posts placed along the trails at Rose Rudman Park.
Within the last year, all bulbs in the lights were switched to LED bulbs.
"The old system utilized more power and caused deterioration," Nix said. "And the LED lights serve as a longer-life solution."
"I ran in this park all the time," said Arielle Lynd, who was attacked one evening last week while running at the park. "It was a little later that evening. I got here about 6:45, and I knew I had a small bracket of time to get my run in."
While finishing her laps, a man attacked Lynd from behind, pulled her into a wooded area, threatened her with a knife and attempted to sexually assault her.
Thankfully, she was able to fight the man off and flag down another runner to call the police. Her alleged attacker was caught less than a week later. Police identified the suspect as James Earl Roberts Jr.
On the stretch of trail where the attack took place, there are three light posts strategically placed nearby resting benches.
"That's a secluded area for a little bit of a stretch there," said Nix. "You just have to be very cautious, especially a woman or someone by yourself."
After going through such a traumatic experience, Lynd says it is something she would not wish upon anyone else.
She proposes the city considers implementing additional safety measures at the parks, including the installation of blue-light emergency phones like those on several college campuses. The call boxes provide immediate contact with local police in the case of an emergency, but the installation and maintenance of the tool can be costly.
At this time, a city representative says the addition of safety call boxes is not a plan being considered. However, it is a measure Lynd says could help to ensure others feel safer when at city parks.
"I just want women to know that always be aware but never be afraid," Lynd said.