People bike along Phoenix trail

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Recent moves by the City of Phoenix to limit access to outdoor recreation have sparked new concerns that officials are moving closer to shutting down trails. Last week the city announced restrictions at some of the most popular hiking trails, and on Tuesday, it joined many other Valley cities in closing down playgrounds to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“The discussion yesterday and the motion on the table was to shut down the trail system,” says Councilmember Sal DiCiccio. During a council meeting Monday, DiCcicio says there appeared to be interest in restricting access to trails, a move he opposes.

“You don’t see people coughing on each other. They’re not sneezing on each other,” says DiCicco. “Those types of things are just not happening.”

DiCiccio believes the mayor and city council may attempt to close trails during a special meeting Wednesday. Mayor Kate Gallego says the discussion about parks and trails will actually happen in a policy meeting on Thursday.

“We have had, unfortunately, national attention for some of the crowding at places such as Papago Park,” says Gallego.

Gallego says city leaders are trying to identify potential risks that may lead to the spread of COVID-19, but she would not say whether closing trails would be an option. The mayor says later this week, the council will learn about national best practices for allowing outdoor recreation while maintaining safety during the pandemic.

“We’ll hear an update on a variety of things, including whether water fountains are a source of droplets that might spread the virus,” says Gallego.

Arizona’s Family reached out to all council members Tuesday for comment on managing access to trails during the coronavirus crisis.

Councilmember Debra Stark said she does not believe there is a desire to close trails. She said in an email, “I trust people will practice social distancing while being outdoors.”

Councilmember Thelda Williams said she would support limiting access to all trails to promote better social distancing. “You’ve got to stay apart,” said Williams.

An agenda posted on the city’s website says Wednesday’s special meeting will focus on “the definition of essential and non-essential services.” Mayor Gallego points to Gov. Doug Ducey’s list of essential services, which allows golf courses to remain open. Gallego says the council will consider what the city can do to keep residents safe as they utilize those services.

 

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