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Phoenix Parks And Recreation Board Approves Restrictions On Camelback, Piestewa Hiking Trails During Extreme Heat

The Phoenix Parks and Recreation Board has approved a pilot program to restrict several trails when the National Weather Service issues an Excessive Heat Watch. 

The decision was made after United Phoenix Firefighters Association members requested restrictions to three trailheads at Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak. Two firefighters were hospitalized last month after conducting multiple rescue operations on those hiking trails in one day.

The pilot program will begin Friday, July 16, and run until Sept. 30.

"[D]uring that time Camelback Mountain’s Echo Canyon Trail and Cholla Trail, and all trails associated with Piestewa Peak Trailhead in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve will be closed from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on days when an Excessive Heat Watch is in effect. Please note that Camelback Mountain’s Cholla Trail is currently closed," according to a Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department release.

Board member Tony Moya justified closing off the trails during the hottest hours of a heat watch day.

“There is enough data to show concern. This isn’t permanent. This is temporary. I have concerns for not only the firefighters but also for the hikers that are out there," Moya said.  

But there was some opposition. One hiker called it “grossly unfair” to the hikers who don’t need help. And the Board’s Director, Sarah Porter, voted ‘no,’ suggesting, instead, alternatives like signage that people just wouldn’t be rescued.

"Would it be feasible to have a kind of 'stupid hiker law?' Could we have warning signs that say 'you won't be rescued.' Are there other kinds of messaging or other kinds of work that we could do?" Porter said. 

More information about the pilot program can be found here

Jill Ryan joined KJZZ in 2020 as a morning reporter, and she is currently a field correspondent and Morning Edition producer.