To pedestrians and bicyclists who regularly use Clayton’s trails and greenways, Officer Neal Johnson is becoming a familiar, friendly face. He not only offers trails users a wave and a smile when’s he’s riding the trails on an ATV, he gives them a sense of security knowing that the Town of Clayton and Clayton Police Department are doing all they can to make one of the community’s most popular attractions safe for everyone who uses them.
Johnson is one of three officers Police Chief Greg Tart plans to assign to a Trail Patrol Unit within the department’s Special Services Division. Tart said that the police presence helps in reducing incidents along Sam’s Branch Greenway, Clayton Riverwalk on the Neuse and other connector trails. It also provides greater face-to-face interaction with the community.
Before this year, one officer was assigned to patrol the Town’s parks throughout the week. However, Tart told the Town Council at their recent retreat that the increasing number of trails means a need for more time and manpower to effectively patrol the routes.
The department recently purchased a four-seat ATV to go with the older one that Johnson uses. The department also has bicycles that other officers use to patrol the greenways and trails as their schedules allow.
Clayton Parks and Recreation currently maintains more than seven miles of trails stretching from the Johnston County line just north of Riverwood Athletic Club to the new Sam’s Branch Greenway extension that ends at City Road near Municipal Park in Downtown Clayton.
The Parks and Recreation staff works in partnership with the Police Department and Clayton Fire Department to ensure the safety of trail users. Since the first trail opened, Parks and Rec, Fire and Clayton Planning staff have diligently worked to update trail maps and designate addresses along the route. Addressing the trail ensures that if someone needs assistance and makes a 911 call from the trail, their location would immediately be pinpointed by emergency responders.
Johnson has other job responsibilities separate from trail patrol, as will the other officers when assigned. Chief Tart said he hopes to have a unit in place in the coming months.