The Ashland City Council has agreed with a staff recommendation that the city not install lights along the Central Ashland Bike Path, but continue working toward installing a memorial bench and light near where David Grubbs was murdered.
The council supported the recommendations of a report presented by Ashland Police Chief Terry Holderness, and compiled from research by numerous city departments. The council did not cast a formal vote.
The 23-year-old Grubbs was killed in the early evening of Nov. 19 on the bike path by someone wielding a large, bladed weapon.
During the work session, Holderness addressed each of the 10 citizen suggestions submitted to Mayor John Stromberg on how to improve community safety in the wake of the brutal murder.
The final estimate of installing a light and post every 150 feet along the 2-mile path was $385,000, Holderness said. That figure included the cost of bringing electricity to the lights.
Holderness told councilors that lighting the path may actually be counter-productive from a safety standpoint, and that citizen complaints about "light pollution" from city-installed lights are already common.
"The police chief vetted each one of the suggestions very thoroughly "… I was persuaded by his response to each of the suggestions." said Councilor Carol Voisin. "And there was no one there to speak from the public."
Voisin said she was convinced by the chief that lighting the path could give people a false sense of security and that shadows created by installing lighting could provide better cover for a violent attacker, or any other criminal.
"Even if you put lighting in an area along the pathway, what you'll create are shadows, which can be just as dangerous . . . and (lighting) maybe even gives people a sense of false security," she said. "I think those were the deciding factors for me."
Aside from establishing a citizen-funded reward for information leading to the arrest of the attacker or attackers who killed Grubbs, which stands at about $11,500, the installation of a memorial bench was the only idea the city has decided to pursue in response to the suggestions.
The bench will likely be placed in Hunter Park, said Holderness, and may have a light, but that will be left up to current discussions between the Grubbs family and the Parks and Recreation Department.
One suggestion, to remove the Parks Department's storage shed near where Grubbs was murdered, is partially occurring, but not because of the crime.
It will be reduced in size, said Parks Director Don Robertson, but only because an addition added to it several year ago was not well-built.
Robertson called the building's reduction in size, relative to the suggestion to remove it, "a coincidence."
The suggestions for police to conduct a security evaluation of the bike path was deemed unnecessary, said Holderness.
He explained that one of the first pieces of data such an evaluation would consider is the rate of crime along the bike path, which he said is "very minimal."
"There have not been enough incidents of crime or disorder on the bike path to do any meaningful analysis," the report said.
Two of the other suggestions, for the police department to hold a community safety seminar, and to hold regular neighborhood meetings, the police department already does upon request, said Holderness.
The report also recommended that the City Council not follow a suggestion to change the scope of the Transportation Commission to include community safety, because "public safety issues related to crime are substantially outside of the purview of the Transportation Commission."
In response to a suggestion to expand the APD volunteer program, Holderness told councilors that the department is continuously looking for additional ways to promote the program.
The final suggestion, to hold a "Take Back the Night," event, was organized by a handful of community members in November. The report recommended that the city assist anyone who comes forward by helping them through any permit process required.
Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.