HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Harlingen is adding a new safety feature to its mountain bike trail, which is made up of five sections and covers almost ten miles along the Arroyo Colorado.
Some riders have gotten injured, and first responders have a hard time finding them.
“If you’re on a trail, describing what’s around you, you know. I’m next to a mesquite tree, next to a cactus, it’s pretty ineffective for first responders,” said master trail builder Tom Kimbriel.
Harlingen’s Parks and Recreation Department will soon start putting markers on the trails.
Each numbered marker will be given a specific GPS address to help first responders find anyone who has suffered an injury or become overwhelmed by the heat.
Kimbriel helped design the trails. He says it’s an idea he took from his days as a Border Patrol agent.
“We were having trouble with people dialing 911, and the location given by the 911 system was inaccurate. And so we were sending all of our rescue assets to the wrong location,” Kimbriel said.
He’s experienced the frustration of not being able to locate someone who desperately needs medical attention.
“I was part of the missing migrant program, and I had a front row seat to this. What we needed to do was create actual addresses. 911 addresses in the middle of nowhere,” Kimbriel said.
Kimbriel says the city has created 50 of the signs as a beginning and will make more as the trail system expands.
Harlingen emergency services have the exact coordinates for each marker.
Once they arrive at one of the local parks, they can enter the coordinates into a GPS device.
“EMS responders would know exactly where to go, where the trail entrances were. And more importantly, what equipment they would need to extract someone from the trails,” said David Hernandez, President and Founder of the Valley Off-Road Bicycle Association.
He says they wanted to be preventative and have a system in place.
Hernandez says the most common type of injury for mountain bike riders are shoulder or collarbone injuries which riders can typically walk away from without needing to be rescued.
He adds the program is a new idea for the mountain bike trails but hopes to see it expand.
“this is going to be our first. If you will pilot project of a coordinate system like this in a trail system of this length,” Hernandez added.
The city is expected to begin placing the markers as soon as this week.
The mountain biking group is looking to expand the trail system and will be hosting an international race on the trails this October.