Big Park Council tackles environmental challenges

By Gail Simpson

Special to The Villager

"The moment I saw the brilliant proud morning sunshine high over the desert and canyon, something stood still in my soul, and I started to attend." D. H. Lawrence

We, who have chosen to live in this most breathtaking of places, also must face the reality of its challenges, protecting it now and for future generations. Such was a theme of the May 8th meeting of the Big Park Regional Coordinating Council (BPRCC), the governing body of our unincorporated community, whose representatives are stepping up to do just that.

President Steve Nelson opened the meeting calling for a moment of silence for the sudden passing of Joan McClelland, who only last month was honored by Supervisor Chip Davis for her dedication to this community and the land that surrounds it. Joan strived tirelessly for permanent protection from land trades (thus, development) in the red rock country, working with the Forest Service for the implementation of Amendment 12 of the Forest Plan and finally, seeking the creation of a National Scenic Area designation.

That goal is yet undone, but Joan was a feisty hero, and is a great loss.

Paul Sullivan, Council Representative to the Forest Service, reported that hikers should avoid Boynton Canyon, as a bear has been seen there twice. Most unfortunately, it is being fed, and tragically, the motto "Feed a bear, kill a bear" often holds true, as the bear becomes a dangerous nuisance.

Much better news for hikers/bikers is that the Friends of the Forest organization has received grant monies from Keen Footwear Company (hiking boots) for the development of phone apps and on-line trail maps of the area. Congratulations, that's terrific!

Two documents with important information about our many area hiking/biking trails have just been released. The RED ROCK TRAILS PLANNING RESULTS 2013 - EXECUTIVE SUMMARY reports, "In 2013 the Red Rock Ranger District, with City of Sedona and other partners undertook a public process to update the District trail strategy for non-motorized trails surrounding Sedona and the Village of Oak Creek.

The process relied on a series of 12 public meetings. This document provides a summary of the process, the results, and recommendations for future actions.

Through this planning process, Red Rock Trail program conditions, issues and recommendations for the future were identified and discussed." Folks wanting to obtain a copy, please contact the Forest Service.

The other is an open letter from District Ranger, Nicole Branton, asking for public input on various trail and trailhead projects described and on the table for consideration.  

Comments are requested by June 15th. Paul stressed that citizen involvement is imperative to ensure that the Forest Service understands our interest in the trails. Please submit your comments to the Forest Service, as well.

Also, hikers/bikers take warning. Sergeant Dan Winslow of the Sherriff's Office reported a number of car break-ins at several trailheads. All are cautioned to put valuables out of sight or, even smarter, left at home, as fast-moving burglars are smashing windows and grabbing whatever they find.

On a happier note, the officer introduced the new Secretary at the Village Sherriff's office, Yvette Gionani, and welcomed all to stop by to say "Hello" and let her know how she can be of help. Helpful, too, is the Yavapai County Sherriff's Office website which has recently been upgraded, so take a look at ycsoaz.gov.

Exciting news from the Council Scholarship Committee was the announcement of the WINNER, a very remarkable young Villager, a graduating senior from Red Rock High School with a 3.95 grade point average, a mature, independent thinker who balances her work as a baker and cashier at Firecreek Coffee House with school, voluntarism and "just being a kid."

She even pays for her own phone, gas and car insurance and, of course, has remarkable personal recommendations. So, who is this outstanding young woman?

The recipient of the 2014 Big Park Regional Coordinating Council Scholarship is...Josie Kohlan! Josie plans to use the scholarship at NAU, where she will study Art and Design. Congratulations, Josie, and best of luck!

Guest speaker, Tom O'Halleran, Keep Sedona Beautiful President, former State Senator and passionate local water expert, got right to it, socking his audience with heavy-hitting information that nobody really wants to think about. Most anywhere, and particularly in our western region, WATER, or lack thereof, will determine our future. But, with a rapidly growing population, increased competition from other states and cities for water from our rivers, as well as extensive groundwater pumping from local wells, our water future is at great risk. Tom hammered on the necessity of acting NOW to protect our water resources, saying that regional cooperation is vital, and we must be aggressive about taking action now.

What is at risk if we don't? According to information from the Verde River Basin Partnership:

The sustainability of our unique water sources, our quality of life, stress on surface water rights, our economic viability, higher costs to individual well-owners to deepen wells, the loss of native vegetation along our rivers and creeks and, of course, impacts to wildlife.

Many asked, "What can the Council do?" and "What can we, as individuals, do?" Steve announced that a Water Committee will be formed immediately to study the issue and become part of the collaboration of the Verde Valley Region. Any Community members interested in taking part please visit bigparkcouncil.org and let them know.

Don't miss next month's BPRCC meeting on June 12th at 9 a.m. sharp at the Firehouse.

Yavapai County Supervisor, Chip Davis, will be there, as well as Verl Cook, the Verde Area Road Supervisor, discussing local County roads.

All are welcome to come with your questions or comments, or just have fun watching.

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