Phoenix Board Votes To Study Closure Of Hiking Trails On Hot Days

By Stina Sieg
Published: Thursday, June 30, 2016 - 6:16pm
Updated: Friday, July 1, 2016 - 8:32am
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(Photo by Stina Sieg - KJZZ)
Thursday’s meeting about Phoenix trails was emotional — and well attended, with about two dozen people standing up to make comments.

The city of Phoenix will not close off its trails during extremely high temperatures — at least not yet. The city’s parks and recreation board voted Thursday night to further study banning people on trails when the temperature hits 110 degrees.

Thursday’s meeting was emotional — and well attended, with about two dozen people standing up to make comments.

"If you try to lock up those trails at 110 degrees, I promise you, I will be out there protesting it, OK?" said Van Gutier.

Gutier was among the majority of people who spoke against closing the trails. The recreation board ended up voting on a pilot program to ban dogs when the temperature hits 100 degrees — but did not make a decision about humans. A new task force will tackle that question. Hiker Scott Cullymore, who’s deeply opposed to the proposal, was pleased.

"I think we’ll win. They’re trying to put a restriction instead of a solution. And there’s a solution out there. We just have to find it," Cullymore said.

He, like many in the audience, said there just isn’t data proving that closing trails in high heat would make people safer.

Grant Gehrlick described how much it matters to him to be able to hike whenever he wants.

"Every single day, I have the choice and the freedom as an adult to climb that mountain and look up and look amongst everybody and say, I’m here to live life," said Gehrlick.

But Cheley McHale, who’s for the measure, said she doubts further study of heat-related hiking deaths will matter to those who want to trails to stay open.

"Even if there was hundreds, I really don’t think anything would change their views because they are seasoned hikers, and they are acclimated and can do this hike," said McHale. "But they’re a small percentage, and a lot of people can’t, and so I was kind of speaking for those people that can’t be here."

McHale’s brother died from a fall on Camelback Mountain five years ago.

In an interview on KJZZ's The Show oon Thursday, Phoenix’s Parks and Recreation Department Director Inger Erickson said the proposal is one that's been discussed in previous years.

"We've always struggled with that is the appropriate thing to do," Erickson said.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been modified to correct the spelling of Cheley McHale's name.

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