Ambivalent. Really, really, ambivalent.

That's my attitude towards Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio's ardent attitude to defeat parking fees in Phoenix's parks.

At about 10:30 a.m. recently I met a longtime Ahwatukee resident during the 104-degree heat on the Desert Classic Trail. He's Jay; I'm Mike.

Jay was so-so about the parking fees as well. He's a mountain biker, hiker and South Mountain Park (SMP) enthusiast. Both of us have hiked the trails in SMP for years. Jay, off and on since 1960. Me, off and on since 1982. We agreed we've seen changes to the park from heavy use, population growth and the porous access.

What we liked about the park was being destroyed by the spider webs of new trails, litter, dog droppings and trail rutting. The trails that follow the ridge lines now were equally rutted. Mountain biking path corridors expanded beyond a 10-foot limit. Bikers and hikers were creating trail connections that would take years, maybe decades, to adjust to the damage.

"One footstep does a lot of destruction," Jay pointed out.

The single biggest concern we shared was the fact that a city and a cultural asset was being destroyed simply by people who came to enjoy the desert park environment. It is a benign, loving destruction if you will.

We discussed the mountain bike competition area set aside in the McDowell Mountains. We discussed foot traffic and horse hooves and the damage done.

The topic of trail management arose. Some mountain bikers helped with trail repairs. Other people tried to use dead limbs to block off trail access only to have other users define new trails around the blocked access. The triangle trail effect probably arose because people took short cuts; those short cuts eventually became worn paths; all with the understanding that 10 yards away was another worn path.

We agreed that: parking fees might deter some users at the established park entries; the cactus population or wild life estimates were not known or established; and overuse was not good for the park itself.

As stewards, we both had picked up trash and chased motorized cyclists from the park.

We both had passed the same bush ... the one with someone's car keys in the plastic sandwich baggie hanging at eye level.

We agreed that a better way to manage the park is necessary. We were not ambivalent about that.

Mike Durham retired after 31 years with the state of Arizona and holds two master's degrees. He has lived in Ahwatukee Foothills since 1982 and can be contacted at


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