Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio hopes to rally South Mountain hiking enthusiasts Saturday to reject proposed parking fees at Pima Canyon.
DiCiccio, whose district includes Ahwatukee Foothills, will be at Pima Canyon at 6:30 a.m. Saturday, July 17, to speak with park users about the Phoenix Parks and Recreation Board's recent decision to impose a $2-a-day fee for parking at the lot.
"The vast majority of calls and e-mails to our office show that most people who use those parks think this fee hike is outrageous, and I do, too," DiCiccio said. "We're going to put together a comprehensive list of all those who object to yet one more fee hike by the city and make sure their voices are heard."
DiCiccio said the city cannot actually enforce the collection of fees until the City Council approves it by ordinance, but no vote has been scheduled. He said he would vote against the fees and is encouraging other council members to do the same. The city should deal with its labor costs before it imposes additional taxes on residents, DiCiccio said.
On July 1, the parks board voted to impose fees of up to $5 a day for parking at selected city mountain parks and preserves, potentially including 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. The fees are meant to ease Phoenix's budget woes and prevent service cuts, officials have said.
Last week, parks officials released more details, pegging the daily fee for Pima Canyon parking at $2 a day, or $50 for a six-month pass. Parking at Telegraph Pass will remain free, according to David Urbinato, parks spokesman. Aside from Pima Canyon, fees also will be imposed at the Echo Canyon area of Camelback Mountain, at Piestewa Peak, at Dreamy Draw Recreation Area and North Mountain Park, he said.
"This leaves multiple free trail access points at all the major preserve areas in the city preserve and mountain park system," said Urbinato, adding that the first six months will be a grace period during which the fees will be voluntary.
Officials plan to have envelopes available at the five trailheads so that visitors can mail in payment if they choose, according to the city's Web site.
On Wednesday morning, several hikers at Pima Canyon said they disliked the idea of a $2 a day fee, but it probably wouldn't drive them away.
Madeleine Ramaiah, who lives near the Pima Canyon trailhead and hikes it several times a week, said she's disappointed.
"I find it sad because it's a city park, and it should be covered by our taxes. However, I do understand that we are in severe economic conditions," she said. "It's like a punishment for bad management."
Jim Michaelsen, a Tempe firefighter, said he would continue to use the park.
"I'll probably buy one of the passes," he said.
Jennifer Merritt, who recently moved to Ahwatukee from Detroit, expressed similar sentiments.
"That would be fine, if they use the money for maintenance," she said.