Five-year initiative to continue the Sedona Trail Keepers program.
It is often said that the journey is as rewarding as the destination. Such may well be the case for visitors using the more than 400 miles of world famous red rock trails in the Sedona Red Rock District of the Coconino National Forest.
Sedona’s trails serve approximately three million people each year. As the gateway to Red Rock Country, the trail system is designed to educate and delight travelers by providing an outdoor experience and information about vegetation, geology, wildlife and cultural traditions.
Maintaining Sedona’s trails is no small task, with an estimated cost of $400,000 per year. In 2016, the Sedona Trail Keepers were founded to supplement the Forest Service budget by raising donations to preserve, maintain, and secure trails in and around Sedona and the Village of Oak Creek.
The program is a local partnership between the Sedona Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau, private sponsors, the Sedona Red Rock Trail Fund, the Forest Service, and the City of Sedona. Participating businesses donate $1,000 each to the Sedona Red Rock Trail Fund (SRRTF).
“We are very, very lucky to work in such a wonderful place as Sedona,” said District Ranger Amy Tinderholt. “It is one of the most visited places in the country. It is really essential for the economy and for all of us to support the maintenance of the trails. We have so many trails, so many breathtaking views.
Tinderholt addressed the rally for the Sedona Trail Keepers donation event on March 10 at the Uptown Visitor Information Center. She accepted a check for $102,000 payable to the Sedona Red Rock Trail Fund. The check represented donations for the first phase of the Trail Keepers 2.0 program, which follows the highly successful Trail Keepers program that ended in February 2021 and raised $370,000 over five years.
In addition, the Chamber and the Tourism Bureau have matched donations of up to $50,000 with resort tax dollars allocated through the Chamber’s tourism management contract with the City of Sedona.
“It’s been an incredible partnership with the Chamber,” SRRTF President Kevin Adams said in his remarks during the presentation. “This community came together to make it happen.”
Adams spoke about the progress of the Trail Keepers program. “Ten years ago there was one year-round person and one seasonal person to maintain the more than 300 miles of non-motorized trails in the Red Rock District,” he said. “Today, with over 400 miles district-wide, the crew consists of two year-round and 10 seasonal [workers]with plans to increase for two full years [people] next season.”
Adams said the SRRTF raised nearly $600,000 in fiscal year 2021, which ended Sept. 30. The Chamber has 725 partner organizations. Many of them are sponsors of Sedona Trail Keepers, including small local businesses such as Absolute Bikes located in Flagstaff and Sedona, Canyon Outfitters and Thunder Mountain Bikes, as well as larger companies such as UniSource Energy Services, Holiday Inn Express and The Global Wealth Management Group. by Raymond James.
“For every guided hike and bike tour, we withdraw $5 and put it into the fund,” said Jim Foss, director of activities at Enchantment Resort in Sedona. “We are doing what we can to help.”
A growing team of volunteers also helps maintain the trails.
“Through Feb. 15, the Forest Service reported 281 volunteers at various volunteer workdays this season, including Friends of the Forest,” Adams said. “We’ve had several days of work since, so [we have had at least] 300.”
Trail maintenance tasks include brush clearing, debris removal, tread work, naturalizing social trails, constructing retaining walls and armoring, installing stone stairs, installation and maintenance of the drainage structure, as well as the installation of kiosks, maps and signage as required.
Mayor Moriarty announced the March 24 launch of a new shuttle system by the City of Sedona that will transport people to five of Sedona’s most popular drop-off points, in conjunction with the creation of two new parking lots at drop-off points. departure where parking is often limited.
“We ramped up the launch just in time for Spring Break,” she told the audience.
The new shuttle service will be linked to the existing Verde Shuttle system. “Verde Connections will bring people to the edge of Sedona near the Cultural Park,” she added.
The five trailheads served are Dry Creek, Mescal, Little Horse, Cathedral Rock and Soldier Pass, with new parking lots at Mescal and the Church of the Red Rocks.
Businesses participating in the first phase of the Trail Keepers 2.0 program are honored in a large banner at the Uptown Visitor Information Center in Sedona and will also be listed on plaques at the trailheads of the Sedona Trail System. NBF
By Betsey Bruner, FBN