Ask any Village resident or visitor, “What’s the main attraction to our area?” The response is obvious: “The red rock formations, plants and animals that make it such a wonderfully unique environment.” Then ask: What’s the greatest man-made asset in the area?” The answer might not be as obvious.
There are more than 250 miles of sublime trails surrounding the Village of Oak Creek and the City of Sedona. All these red dirt trails are within the boundaries of the Red Rock Ranger District (RRRD) of the Coconino National Forest.
Most residents and visitors don’t think much about the trails. They just seem to be there, ready to accept the almost two million annual users. However, like any precious gem, the trails need care and attention to retain their luster and beauty. While the task of maintaining our trails lies primarily with the RRRD, the responsibility does not end there.
Our red rock trails are the communities’ greatest man-made asset. Most of us live here because of the unique quality of life the landscape affords us. But this environmental luxury comes with a price.
The Forest Service is not able to care for the trails on its own. Increasingly, federal staffing and funding for maintenance cannot meet the need. Community-based organizations such as Friends of the Forest (FOF), Verde Valley Cyclists Coalition (VVCC), and Keep Sedona Beautiful (KSB) have provided support to fill the gap with both volunteer trail maintenance work and financial assistance. FOF and VVCC annually donate thousands of volunteer hours.
In September 2014, local residents created the Sedona Red Rock Trail Fund (SRRTF) as a non-profit organization specifically for the purpose of raising funds for trail maintenance.
As area visitation has increased dramatically, there is greater stress on our beloved trail system. In 2016 the SRRTF coordinated community efforts and funding from the City of Sedona that totaled more than $100,000, roughly one-quarter of the annual need for maintenance. Adam Barnett, Recreation Program Manager for the RRRD, estimates that the annual cost for the 250 miles of trails is approximately $425,000.
Last October, the SRRTF sponsored the formation of a grass-roots group to identify ways for the community to provide sustainable funding. Members of 21 organizations attended, including the City of Sedona, Yavapai and Coconino Counties, the greater Sedona Lodging Association and the Sedona Chamber of Commerce.
The work group has identified several ways to make sustainable funding a community- supported effort. Their next meeting is scheduled for May 10, 2017 at 5:30 p.m. in the Vultee Room at Sedona City Hall. The main focus will be to review the group’s efforts and recommendations for sustained community involvement.
“All trail users, residents and visitors alike, should DIG - DIG into your pocket, DIG the dirt that maintains the trails, or both,” says Phil Kincheloe, 25+ years trail volunteer and RRRD Consultant, summarizing the community’s vital role. Individuals or organizations wishing to help our greatest asset by volunteering or supporting sustainable funding, contact SRRTF President Jennifer Burns (email@example.com) or V.P. Dan Blaettler (firstname.lastname@example.org).