Santa Claus vs. Phoenix parks and rec over Camelback Christmas tree

The City of Phoenix heard arguments to halt the near-decade long holiday tradition from avid hikers.

PHOENIX - The parks and recreation board meets monthly inside the Phoenix City Council Chamber, but rarely does Santa Claus show up to make public comment.

John Cressey, otherwise known as the Camelback Santa is upset the city might not allow him to continue hiking a Christmas tree up the Phoenix mountain. 

"I appreciate they're conflicted. They want to keep the natural beauty of the parks," Cressey said after the meeting.

Cressey and some of Santa's helpers have been hiking a Christmas tree to the top of the mountain for a few years, leaving it there for a month. Park rangers ended up taking it down last December, classifying the tree as litter because it's not natural to the preserve. 

Cressey and his merry gang at the board meeting are claiming tradition, but Stacie Beute from the Central Arizona Conservation Alliance thinks otherwise.

"I think we can hardly call it that. It's only been happening for five years. That's more like a bad habit," Beute said during her comment portion of the meeting.

Cressey and his friends put together a proposal they feel like should take care of any issues the city and others may have. They are offering to pay for and obtain a permit for their tree and personally hike up twice a day to remove any foreign ornaments which do not belong in the natural habitat.

The issue brought up by Sarah Porter of the parks and recreation department is the idea of a slippery slope.

"I don't know where we draw the line at one group and one Christmas tree," Porter said. 

The board is expected to make a decision on the fate of this tree sometime in September.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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