Parking at the Telegraph Pass entrance to South Mountain Park has posed a problem for Ahwatukee Foothills hikers and residents for several years, but help is on the way with construction to expand the parking lot.
“I’ve actually left here and not gone hiking sometimes because the lot is full,” said Bob Korhely, 48, who has been hiking at the trail multiple times per week for 14 years.
The parking lot expansion will more than double the amount of parking spaces available with the addition of 44 spaces to the existing 39, according to Jarod Rogers, a Phoenix landscape architect and trails coordinator.
“It’s always been too small of a lot for the size of Ahwatukee,” Korhely said.
Chad Blostone, who is on the board of directors for The Foothills Homeowners Association, said that the project was long overdue.
“This goes back about three to four years that we’ve been working on this to happen,” said Blostone, who has been an Ahwatukee Foothills resident and weekly hiker for the past seven years. “It seems like a simple project, but it was anything but that.”
When the city approved the project, a heritage grant and state grant were applied for and approved to split the cost of the estimated $150,000 parking lot expansion, however the state grant was later retracted due to budget issues, Blostone said.
After the project lost its state funding, Phoenix had to come up with other means to fund the other half of the expansion, said Blostone, who credits District 6 Councilman Sal DiCiccio and Deputy City Manager Rick Naimark for its success.
“It’s a great example of local government responding to their constituency and their desires,” Blostone said and later added: “I’m really appreciative of Sal and Rick and their teams because they really helped make this happen.”
Not only did the small parking lot cause problems for those who came to hike one of the two trails that are accessible at Telegraph Pass, but neighbors in the area saw the lack of parking spaces as a great inconvenience.
“People were using the neighborhood streets as an overflow parking lot,” Blostone, 40, said.
Ten-year Ahwatukee Foothills resident Pamela Kerner hikes at South Mountain about once a week and said the project will help nearby residents who don’t like hikers parking in their neighborhoods.
“I would be annoyed if I lived close by, but at the same time I’d know that I was living by a public park,” Kerner, 38, said. “It comes with the territory.”
The city did put up signs telling hikers that parking in the neighborhoods was not permitted and an alternative parking lot for the Telegraph Pass entrance was available at a school down the road, but that did not deter hikers from using the residential streets across the road from the parking lot.
George Sweeten, 43, of Chandler, said he has been coming to this entrance once a week for almost two years and is always concerned about finding parking, but said he had parked in the neighborhoods before.
“I haven’t heard any of their complaints, but they probably don’t like the traffic,” Sweeten said. “The parking lot is too small for this trail so it’s good to see them do it.”
The expansion, which should be completed in December, Blostone said, will also include 14 new trees and three parking lot lights.
“They’re making some great progress,” Blostone said. “I’d be surprised if they weren’t done in November.”
Stephanie Snyder is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a sophomore at Arizona State University.