An interesting batle is developing over a piece of land in the Phoenix area known as Black Mountain. Black Mountain is a beautiful, almost untouched desert area that some want to open to public recreation, i.e., hiking, while conserving it and others want to preserve it by limiting public access. By opening to public recreation they mean building restroom facilities, access roads, parking lots and a limited number of defined hiking trails.
Hiking in the beautiful mountains and fascinating Sonoran desert is a big time recreational activity in Arizona. Most hikers want areas to remain pristine as possible with the exception of hiking trails. Hikers for the most part are environmentalists when it comes to the recreational areas they hike in. They do not want it destroyed or commercially developed yet they want access to it via the trails. Preservationists want an area to remain totally untouched. Conservationists say that hikers are already using unimproved trails through the area so preservation is a pipe dream unless a big fence is put up around it to keep people out or establish some hungry mountain lions there.
One of my favorite areas is overrun with hikers and mountain bikers on weekends. So much so that I only go there in the off-season. The problem is that not all hikers respect the land. It just takes a few hikers going off-trail to destroy a fragile desert eco-system. A few drop trash with the expectation someone else will pick up after them. A certain amount of trash doesn't get picked up and gradually pollutes an area. The parks people have installed ugly trash barrels along the main trail. Someone who will drop trash on a beautiful trail certainly won't be bothered to use a trash barrel. A can of spray paint in the hands of wrong person can ruin a trail forever.
With home building gobbling up acre after acre of land in the Valley of the Sun we have to have recreational areas, but also we have to preserve some of it for the future. Black Mountain is a damned-you-do and damned-if-you-don't problem because hikers already know about it and are already hiking there in greater numbers. The question becomes whether opening it to more people will preserve it in the long run by making the trails permanent.