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Most hikers, but not all, honor Tumamoc Hill's closure in Tucson during coronavirus

Most hikers, but not all, honor Tumamoc Hill's closure in Tucson during coronavirus

From the Tucson-area coronavirus coverage from January to March: Nearly 1,300 cases in Arizona, stay-at-home order series

Hikers shown enjoying Tumamoc Hill last year, before the hill’s closure due to COVID-19. The crowds are down about 90% since the closure.

Most of Tumamoc Hill’s walkers are staying away while the hill is closed to the public because of the coronavirus — but some scofflaws are sneaking up.

About 20 cars were parked along Anklam Road on Tuesday afternoon near the entrance to a paved road up the hill that has drawn desert lovers for decades. But considering that dozens of vehicles are usually parked there, Ben Wilder, director of the University of Arizona’s Desert Research Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill, was proclaiming the closure a success.

Last weekend’s hill walker count was about 10% of the approximately 1,500 people and 1,700 people who climbed the hill the Saturday and Sunday, respectively, before the hill was closed on March 18, Wilder said.

Desert Laboratory officials closed Tumamoc because they felt traffic of 1,500 people or more would not be in keeping with recommendations and orders made by various officials and health experts to limit crowd sizes.

“The fact that 90% of the walkers were upholding the closure — that’s a great tribute to the community,” said Wilder. “The 10% who are choosing not to uphold — that’s a slap in the face to everyone who’s upholding.”

A new sign posted along Anklam informs passersby of the closure.

Three women hiking the hill Tuesday afternoon would not give their names. They said they either felt it was safe to go up there now because so few people were using it, or felt they needed the exercise.

“It’s a beautiful day — I don’t feel like staying inside all day,” one walker said.

“There’s nobody up here — I don’t see a problem,” another said.

A third walker said she feels safer on the hill than at her restaurant job, dishing out to-go food, or when grocery shopping.

Here, “I’m not touching what other people are touching,” she said.

Wilder, when told of the walkers’ comments, responded, “If everyone thought like that, it wouldn’t be safe.”

His staff monitors the hill periodically, but it’s too limited to check hourly for violators, he said. But if more people walk it, “we will react accordingly” and start citing violators, he said.

“The last thing we want to be doing is policing our community,” Wilder said. “Our community is under so much stress right now.”

Contact reporter Tony Davis at 806-7746

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