Friends of the Forest also friends to community
The vast majority of Sedona's visitors enter Red Rock Country from I-17 via highway SR 179. The 7.5 mile SR 179 corridor from Beaverhead Flat Rd. to Back O' Beyond Rd. is the only designated All American Scenic Byway in Arizona and one of only 22 in the entire United States.
Located two miles south of the Village of Oak Creek near the start of the SR 179 scenic byway, the Red Rock Ranger District Visitor Center serves as the south gateway to Sedona and has become the first stop for many of those visitors.
Opening in March 2008, the Red Rock Ranger District Visitor Center hosts between 1,000-2,000 visitors daily who seek information on opportunities to explore the natural wonders that surround Sedona. Located at the southern end of the SR 179 All American Scenic Byway, the visitor center is open between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., seven days a week, with FOF members volunteering over 650 hours at the visitor center every month working alongside forest service staff and ANHA volunteers.
Realizing in 2005 that funding would be needed for interpretive exhibits, the FOF Board authorized Mike Ward, then FOF President, to write a grant application for exhibit funding through the Sedona Community Foundation. The forest service and FOF identified a 3D interactive terrain model interpretive exhibit as a top priority for funding. The terrain model would serve to provide visitors with trip planning information for driving, hiking, biking and camping experiences as well as opportunities to explore cultural heritage sites in the district.
In 2006, FOF was awarded a three year $24,000 grant from the Sedona Community Foundation (SCF) for the terrain model. Although the grant funds were earmarked specifically for the terrain model, the SCF promotes the use of their grant awards to be used as matching funds to leverage additional grant funding from other sources.
After being awarded the SCF grant, the forest service and FOF agreed to partner in applying for a $400,000 All American Scenic Byway grant for interpretive exhibits at the visitor center. The grant required a 20% local match and each partner provided $40,000 toward the required $80,000 matching requirement. FOF applied the $24,000 SCF grant along with $16,000 of FOF funds for their $40,000 match. The grant was jointly written by Sarah Belcher, Landscape Architect for the Red Rock Ranger District and Mike Ward.
The forest service and FOF were awarded the All American Scenic Byway grant in November 2008 and funding made available in early 2010. A request for proposal was advertised and the project was awarded to Exhibit Design Associates (EDA) out of Boulder, CO, for the design, construction and installation of the interpretive exhibits. In late July, representatives of EDA met with forest service staff, FOF and ANHA volunteers for a two day planning charrett.
The group discussed the Interpretive Design Plan developed for the visitor center for both exterior and interior interpretive exhibits. These exhibits include Explore and Discover this Delicate Land, Help Protect and Conserve this Natural Treasure, Stories in Stone, Bio-diversity of the Ecosystem, and Sedona's Human History as well as a multi-media theater.
If you are interested in making a difference, become involved with the Friends of the Forest. For information about the Friends, you are invited to contact the Red Rock Ranger Station at (928) 282-4119 and also visit our website at: http://www.friendsoftheforestsedona.org