A Proposed Hiking Ban in Phoenix Draws Outrage

When the temperature hits the triple digits in Phoenix, AZ, hikers continue to hike. They snake their way up Camelback Mountain, which has a 2,680-foot summit with spectacular views of the city. They pack the picturesque mile-long trail up Piestewa Peak. They traverse the towering cactus dotting South Mountain Park. And some of them find themselves lost, parched, in distress.

Six hikers in Arizona died in a single weekend last month, and Phoenix firefighters have rescued 141 people from the city’s mountains and trails so far this year, many of them overcome by the summer’s stupefying heat.

To reduce the number of hikes that go awry, the city has tried offering safety tips (“plan ahead,” “don’t hike alone,” “avoid huffing and puffing”) and leaving free bottles of water and ice at the parking lots of some of the most popular spots.

Going further, city officials recently proposed closing trails altogether when the temperature hits 110 degrees. That plan drew considerable criticism. Opponents griped promptly and loudly, deriding the proposed ban as the actions of a nanny state.

At a meeting of the city’s Parks and Recreation Board to consider the proposed ban, the reaction was as searing as Arizona’s summer sun. With so much criticism, the city decided against banning hikers during extreme heat but did approve restrictions prohibiting hikers from taking their dogs and other animals on the trails when temperatures reach 100.

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