Tuxachanie Trail Troubles Disappear

The Tuxachanie Trail is a maze of walking paths and trails. It's a place where dogs and their owners often enjoy nature's beauty.

"I like just getting out in the woods," said Carlie Jenkins.

The Long Beach woman was enjoying a walk along the trail with her boyfriend and her two dogs, "getting away from everything."

The U.S. Forest Service tries to make the hiking trail off Highway 49 a safe place for people like Jenkins. But for a period of four months, forest rangers said the trail became a gathering spot for lewd men. So they called in Harrison County Sheriff George Payne.

"This just wasn't a real easy detail," the sheriff remembered. "We had officers actually get assaulted during this."

Payne's undercover officers spent 10 hours walking along the trail. During that time, they got solicited by some men. And they saw others involved in inappropriate conduct.

Arrests were made and the men have since disappeared.

"For those efforts, we would like to present this plaque to you," forest ranger Ron Smith said to the sheriff.

The forest service plaque thanked Harrison County's sheriff for ridding the Tuxachanie Trail of a group of men, and their allegedly lewd behavior. Smith said since the arrests, inappropriate conduct on the trail "is basically non-existent."

Sheriff Payne noted the same thing.

"I think that abuse of the forest is stopped now," he said. "Are they going to move somewhere else? Probably."

And the sheriff says his deputies and the forest rangers will be on the lookout for that next gathering spot -- so lewd acts on the Tuxachanie Trail don't interfere with nature's beauty.

"Once they locate a spot, they come from all over south Mississippi," Payne said.  "There is quite a network there.  So we've all got to stay on it."

Three of the men arrested on the indecent exposure charges were from Hattiesburg. The other three lived in Biloxi, Gulfport and Ocean Springs.