Hikers pack city meeting to oppose parking fees

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- A crowd of angry hikers confronted the City of Phoenix Parks Board Thursday night over management of the most popular hiking trails in the Valley.

Most came to oppose the idea of installing parking meters at Piestewa Peak, Camelback's Echo Canyon and South Mountain. The city hired consultants to review the issue.

"This is giving the middle finger salute to the citizens," Greta Rogers told the board.

"Can you imagine the outrage that would meet the installation of pay-to-pass turnstiles at Central Park (in New York)? A ridiculous idea," Anita Wallace said.

The city is looking into a variety of proposals to raise revenue and also divert hikers to other less popular trails. Parks officials say the main trailheads are over used and showing signs of damage and erosion. They say having people pay to hike is just one idea under review.

"A lot of people hike several times per week, if not every day. They could be facing more than $1,000 in annual fees. Who among you would accept a $1,000 annual fee to use the library?" another Phoenix resident told the board.

The proposal lacks major support at City Hall. Several city councilmembers have also spoken out against a pay-to-hike program.

Some in the crowd pitched other revenue-generating ideas, such as specialty license plates or corporate sponsorships to raise money for park care, rather than parking meters.

"We need to think more grandly to take care of these parks. It sure as hell isn't parking meters," another man said.

A decision is likely months away. The issue will be brought up at another meeting later this fall.