A Phoenix proposal to begin charging up to $5 a day for parking at two popular South Mountain trailheads in Ahwatukee has some hikers boiling.
"Next thing they're going to be charging for is toll booths to drive on our own city streets," said Ahwatukee resident and frequent park user Robert Barrett.
Last week, Phoenix's Parks and Recreation Board voted to institute a fee of up to $5 a day for parking at city mountain parks and preserves, including two in Ahwatukee: the Pima Canyon Trailhead, at 9904 S. 48th St. near the eastern tip of South Mountain, and the Telegraph Pass Trailhead, at 14251 S. Desert Foothills Parkway, near the mountain's midpoint along its southern edge, said David Urbinato, Phoenix parks spokesman. Park users also would be given the option of purchasing a six-month parking pass for $50, or a year-long pass for $75, he said.
Parking at those lots currently is free.
"It all comes down to the economy and the pressure on the city budget," Urbinato said. "The goal is to try to drive some revenue to offset, delay or avoid cuts to city services."
Over the next six months, city parks officials will gauge the program's success and determine how much the city should charge at each parking facility, Urbinato said. However, payment would not be mandatory unless the City Council adopts the fees by ordinance, he said, and at this point, it's unclear if that will ever happen. So, for the first six months, park patrons would be asked to pay the fee voluntarily, while city officials conduct a public education campaign about the program, Urbinato said.
"It is a big change," he said. "We're going to have to spend of lot of time letting people know and getting the word out."
Barrett, who had just finished a hike at Telegraph Pass Tuesday morning, said he believes the proposed fees are excessive. Barrett said he hikes the trail a couple of times a week.
"I'm not pleased about it. I don't like it at all," he said. "We pay for this with our taxes already. What are we paying taxes for?"
The hefty parking fee likely would dissuade him from using the park as much as he does, Barrett said.
"I can belong to a gym for that," said his wife, Dawn.
Jennifer Hidalgo, a Chandler resident who hikes the Telegraph Pass trail about three times a week, said she thinks the fee would push many visitors to park in adjacent residential neighborhoods.
"I would actually think that people would end up not parking here," Hidalgo said. "They would try to find a way around it."
She said $5 a day is too high.
"That's a lot. One dollar, maybe," she said.
A sign posted at the Telegraph Pass parking lot states: "No parking in residential areas for trail access." But nearby, on the public roadways in the upscale neighborhood behind Seventh and Eighth streets, just across the street from the trailhead, there are no apparent signs restricting on-street parking.
Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio, whose district includes Ahwatukee, said he opposes the new fees.
"It's outrageous that the city is dumping more of its fiscal problems on taxpayers rather than taking responsibility and making difficult decisions," DiCiccio said. "The middle class is getting slammed."