Five-year initiative to continue Sedona Trail Keepers program.
It’s 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 trails serve about three million people each year. As the gateway to Red Rock Country, the trail system is designed to educate and thrill travelers by providing an outdoors experience and information about the vegetation, geology, wildlife and cultural traditions.
Maintaining Sedona’s trails is no small task, with an estimated cost of $400,000 annually. In 2016, the Sedona Trail Keepers was founded as a way to supplement the Forest Service budget by raising donations to preserve, maintain and make safe 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’re very, very lucky to work in such a wonderful place like Sedona,” said District Ranger Amy Tinderholt. “It’s one of the most highly visited places in the country. It’s really critical to the economy and to all of us to support the maintenance of trails. We have so many trails, so many drop-dead gorgeous views.”
Tinderholt addressed the gathering for the Sedona Trail Keepers Donation Event on March 10 at the Uptown Visitor Information Center. She accepted a check for $102,000 made out 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 concluded in February 2021 and brought in $370,000 in five years.
In addition, the Chamber and Tourism Bureau matched the donations up to $50,000 with bed tax dollars allocated under the Chamber’s tourism management contract with the City of Sedona.
“It’s just been an incredible partnership with the Chamber,” said SRRTF President Kevin Adams in his remarks during the presentation. “This community has gotten together to make it happen.”
Adams reflected on the progress of the Trail Keepers Program. “A decade ago, there was one full-year and a seasonal person to maintain the then-approximately 300+ miles of non-motorized trail in the Red Rock District,” he said. “Today, with over 400 miles district-wide, the crew consists of two full-year and 10 seasonal [workers], with plans to increase by two full-year [people] next season.”
Adams said SRRTF had raised nearly $600,000 during fiscal year 2021, which ended Sept. 30. The Chamber has 725 organizations that are partners. Many of them are Sedona Trail Keepers sponsors, including smaller 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 of Raymond James.
“For every guided hike and bike tour, we pull back $5 and pour it into the fund,” said Jim Foss, activities director at Enchantment Resort in Sedona. “We do what we can to help.”
Also helping to maintain trails is an ever-expanding team of volunteers.
“Through Feb. 15, the Forest Service reported 281 volunteers at the various volunteer workdays this season, including Friends of the Forest,” Adams said. “We’ve had several workdays since, so [we have had at least] 300.”
Trail maintenance tasks include brushing, debris removal, tread work, social trail naturalization, retaining wall and armoring construction, rock stair installation, draining structure installation and maintenance, as well as kiosk, maps and trail signage installation as needed.
Mayor Moriarty announced the March 24 launch of a new shuttle system by the City of Sedona that will transport people to five of the most popular trailheads in Sedona, in conjunction with the creation of two new parking lots at the trailheads where parking is often limited.
“We accelerated the launch just in time for Spring Break,” she told the audience.
The new shuttle service will link up with the existing Verde Shuttle system. “The Verde links will bring people up 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 at the Church of the Red Rocks.
Businesses participating in the first phase of Trail Keepers 2.0 program are honored in a large banner at the Uptown Visitor Information Center in Sedona and also will be listed on plaques at trailheads in the Sedona trail system. FBN
By Betsey Bruner, FBN