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Updated Sep 2, 2014 - 1:07 pm

Phoenix drops proposal to install parking meters at popular trailheads

PHOENIX -- The city of Phoenix has dropped a proposal to install parking meters at three popular hiking trailheads, Councilman Sal DiCiccio confirmed with KTAR on Friday.

On the heels of Phoenix raising rates and extending meter hours, the city considered putting hourly meters at the Echo Canyon, Piestewa Peak and South Mountain trailheads, which would have affected roughly 9 percent of parking across all of the city's preserves, said David Urbinato with Phoenix's Parks and Recreation Department.

Following an open house on Aug. 20 to hear public comment on the proposal, the city hired a consultant to study parking at the trailheads and report back to the parks department board for evaluation, Urbinato said. The board continued to hear public comments up until dropping the proposal just before Labor Day weekend.

New meters would have acted as a source of revenue for the city. Funds collected from the meters would have gone into the city's general fund, according to Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio, who added he was highly opposed to the proposal.

"I think it's great news for people that love our city parks," DiCiccio said about Friday's decision, "but I think it's bad news long term for the citizens of Phoenix. Staff has a mandate that they're going to go out there and raise taxes and fees on the public -- even though the city of Phoenix is going to realize more revenue this year than it ever has in the history of its existence."

The councilman called the decision to drop the proposal a victory for taxpayers, but he said city workers and some councilmembers will continue looking to raise taxes "in every other area." He cited streets and the water department as examples of what the city will target next.

"City and staff cannot justify these fee and tax increases that they're going to be pushing forward on everybody else," he added.

"City and staff cannot justify these fee and tax increases that they're going to be pushing forward on everybody else," DiCiccio added.

Councilman Michael Nowakowski shared DiCiccio's sentiments about the decision and added he was pleased that Phoenix residents got a chance to make their voices heard before the city went forward with the proposal.

"This process allowed residents to weigh in and voice their opinion, and thankfully the Parks and Recreation Department used that input to make the right decision to keep parking meters out of Phoenix preserves," Nowakowski said in a statement.

Mayor Greg Stanton also released a brief statement on Friday's decision.

"I support the decision of our parks department. I look forward to hearing other options from the department and the Parks and Recreation board for improving traffic management at our trailheads," he said.

DiCiccio said last week the city's desire to increase parking fees and add more parking meters was an attempt to make up ground on the city's general fund deficit. In his opinion, the city of Phoenix has a spending problem, not a revenue problem, he said.

The city said it has no deficit.

Besides the fiscal cost to those who use the Phoenix mountain parks, DiCiccio said the meters would have had a broader cost to the city of Phoenix.

"Preventing people from going out there into the parks (and) enjoying the park, you start to detracting from our quality of life," he said.

DiCiccio said Phoenix needs to cultivate outdoor activity and said he believes parking meters would deter people from visiting those trailheads.

"We have a great city. We have great people that live here, and a lot of that has to do with the amenities we as a city provide," he said. "We give them free parks; we allow them to go there and enjoy it with their families."

A statement from Phoenix's public information office on Friday said the parks department will continue to seek public input over the next few months on how to enhance visitor experience and better control traffic at the three popular hiking areas.

The KTAR Newsroom and Cooper Rummell contributed to this report.

About the Author

A southern California native, Mark Remillard began working in radio in 2010 while in community college as a host of late night and weekend programming for publicly supported 88.5 FM KSBR. While working through college, Mark also interned for the Bill Handel Radio Program at Los Angeles' KFI AM640, where he began his work in journalism. Mark moved to Arizona in August 2012 to finish his bachelor's degree at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and graduated in August 2014. Mark began working as a reporter for KTAR in November 2012.


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