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Sexual assault prompts safety concerns at Woodbury's parks

Markgrafs Park is located on near the City Walk district. The east side trail is more isolated than the west. (Riham Feshir/Woodbury Bulletin)

On one of the few nice, sunny Monday afternoons that Woodbury saw so far this spring, walkers, bikers and joggers strolled local parks to enjoy the weather.

But not many were seen at Markgrafs Park, where a woman was sexually assaulted early Saturday morning, according to police.

"I run outside quite a bit so that's definitely alarming," said Natalie Johnston, a Woodbury resident who spent some time Monday afternoon with her two children at neighboring Powers Lake Park.

She and many others said it was "shocking" to hear about the sexual assault incident.

"I would've never even been worried about it before, it's so out of the norm," Johnston said.

The park is located on the northeast side of town near the City Walk district. The walking trail runs around Markgrafs Lake, where the east side is more isolated.

Mary Guest, a Woodbury senior citizen who lives in a nearby one-level town home, was walking her dog Monday afternoon at Markgrafs Park. She said her walking routine will most likely remain unchanged.

However, she said she's concerned for her safety, and other seniors living in her development.

"You just have to wonder how long he was stalking her," she said of the victim, a 33-year-old woman. "And I have a feeling he was."

Police said the woman was sexually assaulted at about 5:30 a.m. Saturday. Due to light at that time of day, she was unable to provide a description of the suspect, police said.

Shari Ames, of Lake Elmo, is a frequent visitor of Woodbury trails. She said her large dog adds an extra layer of security and she's always got her cell phone handy.

Residents and police say the sexual assault is a rare incident, but Nancy Moravetz of Woodbury said it will not change her views of how safe Woodbury parks are.

"I feel safe enough coming here," she said of Powers Lake Park. "I just wouldn't think anything like that happened around here. I'm surprised."

Woodbury police continued investigating the assault Monday. Woodbury police Commander Jay Alberio said a sexual assault kit had been completed and sent to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, where physical evidence will be studied.

So far there have been no strong leads in the case, he said.

Meanwhile, police have been stepping up patrols around Markgrafs Lake Park.

"We're paying extra attention to that area," Alberio said.

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.