In the early 1990s, the Red Rock District of the Coconino National Forest was seeing steadily increasing use but the District lacked the manpower and funds to keep pace.
So in 1994, a group of dedicated and energetic volunteers in the Village of Oak Creek & greater Sedona recognized the problem and decided to help: this group formed Friends of the Forest (FOF).
From an original group numbering about 150, FOF has grown to over 550 members. In 2018, members volunteered over 36,000 hours in support of the Forest Service. Since 1994, over a half a million hours of volunteering have been provided.
The FOF emphasizes service through members volunteering to:
• Assist visitors to the Red Rock Ranger District Visitors Center;
• Remove graffiti from our red rocks and patrol and maintain trails;
• Provide information at the V Bar V and Palatki Heritage Sites;
• Measure air and water quality;
• Support Forest Service River Rangers;
• Create extensive photo documentation of our native heritage;
• Provide interpretive programs;
• Assist the District’s Wildlife Biologist with a host of special projects.
In 2008, the Forest Service Visitor Center needed to expand to accommodate the increasing influx of visitors and opened a new building just south of the Village of Oak Creek.
FOF played a key role in obtaining grants that funded the creation of many of the new Visitor Center’s interpretive exhibits. Each year over a quarter of a million visitors stop at the Visitor Center to learn more about activities, providing FOF volunteers an opportunity to communicate the ‘leave no trace’ ethic.
In fact, providing education and enhancing the experience for residents and visitors are two of the primary goals of Friends of the Forest.
Other key goals, in addition to trail maintenance, include reducing environmental damage caused by increasing human impact, and helping the Forest Service with cultural resources.
FOF volunteers have made a significant difference, enhancing the quality of life here in the Verde Valley. Check their website for more information: friendsoftheforestsedona.org.