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Conkey Cruisers change course due to drug dealing, homelessness on trail

Needles and caps found in El Camino Park
Theresa Bowick, Conkey Cruisers
Needles and caps found in El Camino Park

Theresa Bowick founded the Conkey Cruisers eight summers ago to promote physical activity on the El Camino Trail.

But this year, the cycling group had to cut its season short to rethink its future.

“We made the decision last Friday to stop for the season because of the drug traffic in the neighborhood and how it was all kinda coming together or imploding on us all at once,” said Bowick.

Bowick said the group has riders as young as 2 and as old as 73, and they need to make sure the two-mile trail that runs between High Falls and Seneca Park is clear to keep them safe.

Before each ride, Bowick said, she walks the trail. During those walks, she ran into drug dealers and found needles and other drug paraphernalia. Bowick also found signs that someone was living in a handicapped-accessible port-a-potty that the cruisers bought for the riders.

“There was a blanket in there,” said Bowick. “There was lighters in there, we only saw some caps and needles inside of there and then a needle in the back of it.”

She’s also seen an increase of ATVs and motorbikes on the trail, which she said presented its own set of 

Handicapped accessible port-a-potty on the El Camino Trail.
Credit Theresa Bowick, Conkey Cruisers
Handicapped accessible port-a-potty on the El Camino Trail.


“I have a large population of kids with asthma and so when you fly by and you create this dust storm, now you’ve compromised their ability to breathe and ended their day of cycling,” said Bowick.

Bowick said she’s run into these issues before, but it’s never been this bad.

“The trail would be blocked with large groups of individuals selling drugs, smoking marijuana, playing dice, you know, doing things that kids should not be exposed to,” Bowick said.

She said has a meeting planned with Rochester Police Chief Laron Singletary and has reached out to the mayor’s office on the matter, but she doesn’t think a larger police presence is the answer.

Instead, Bowick is asking community groups to come together to help the people living and drug dealing on the trail, starting with the group’s year-end celebration Wednesday night.

She said she plans to bring the group back next year with a new game plan.

“Let’s cover every corner with love, and I believe that that’s a much better response than putting a cop on every corner,” said Bowick.

James Brown is a reporter with WXXI News. James previously spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for CITY Newspaper. While at CITY, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.