Arizona First Responders Disagree With Decision To Close Fossil Springs Trail

By Chloe Jones
Published: Tuesday, June 18, 2019 - 9:09am
Updated: Tuesday, June 18, 2019 - 11:14am

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coconino national forest fossil creek trail
Deborah Lee Soltesz/Coconino National Forest
Fossil Creek is one of only two National Wild & Scenic rivers in Arizona and is fed by springs coming from the cliffs of the Mogollon Rim.

The U.S. Forest Service temporarily closed the Fossil Springs Trailhead, citing emergency response strains. Arizona responders, however, said a different response is needed at the trailhead, which is located about 20 miles south of Camp Verde.

The popular Fossil Creek Trailhead will be closed in July and August. The Forest Service says local responders have been strained by rescue calls in past seasons.

Gary Morris, fire chief at the Pine-Strawberry Fire district, which responds to calls in this area, said they were not consulted and that this closure could potentially turn a 90 minute rescue into a five to seven hour hike because rescuers will have to take a longer route.

“Had they consulted, we would have recommended that they do what the Tonto Rim Search and Rescue squad has been doing for the last three years: every weekend day as well as holidays,” said Morris.

Morris explained the Tonto Rim Search and Rescue squad has staffers at other trailheads providing guidance and water as needed to hikers. Fossil Creek will still be accessible on the Camp Verde side.

“They're preventing hundreds of really well prepared and fit folks to go over the hill safely for concern about one or two that may show up not prepared. So it's public lands, and generally, we don't like to see the Forest Service preventing folks from entering public forest lands,” said Morris.

Morris said a ranger providing guidance and water at trailheads would be a better preventative measure to combat heat-related issues, which he said account for about 80 percent of their calls.

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