- Associated Press - Thursday, June 30, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - The Phoenix Parks and Recreation board on Thursday rejected a proposal to ban hiking in extreme heat but did approve banning dogs from the city’s 41 trailheads when the temperature reaches 100 degrees and above.

The board heard from over a dozen residents who opposed the hiking ban. Department staff this week suggested closing trails to people when the weather hits 110 degrees and to dogs when it hits 100 degrees. The ban on dogs in extreme heat will be on a trial, three-month basis. Parks and recreation staff will also be required to conduct surveys on trail closures and form a task force.

Almost everyone who spoke opposed the proposal.

“This is our park, not yours,” Tim Sierakougle said, calling the proposal a “stupid” rule.

Others called the proposal a knee-jerk reaction to a few bad incidents while also questioning the efficiency of closing parks.

Ernest Martinez said he favored an educational approach instead.

“I don’t think that is a practical or feasible approach. I don’t think the city of Phoenix has the resources to carry out that policy or enforce it,” Martinez said.

Parks and Recreation spokesman Gregg Bach said on Wednesday that staff started seriously considering the proposal in the past week, after there were several rescues and at least one death within city limits. A 28-year-old fitness instructor died after being rescued while mountain biking on June 19 in Phoenix during a record-breaking 118-degree day. Six people in Arizona died that day of heat-related causes, including two German men who were visiting Tucson and went on a hike.

City firefighters responded to over 200 rescue calls at Phoenix trails in the past year.

Chelsey McHale, whose brother died after falling from a Camelback Mountain trail, said she supported the ban because it could help prevent deaths.

“If we can maybe reduce some of these deaths and rescues, even if it’s just heat-related illness, I’m all for it,” she said. “I mean how many deaths have to occur for that to be enough?”

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