This weekend, the annual Sedona Winefest comes to Posse Grounds Park. While Winefest is great fun for the community, it underscores the long-term changes that will affect the economy of the Verde Valley in the years to come.
Prior to the Information Age, Sedona, Camp Verde and the tri-cities of Cottonwood, Clarkdale and Jerome, and their dependent incorporated communities were effectively economic islands along a quiet detour off Interstate 17.
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Camp Verde was, and still is, a ranching town anchored by Fort Verde. Cottonwood and Clarkdale were built for the copper mining and smelting industry centered on Jerome. Sedona was a sleepy town of ranches, orchards, filmmaking and light tourism.
After water was discovered beneath Grasshopper Flat, Sedona’s housing boom began while in the Jerome area, the end of the mining industry meant those communities reshuffled their economies to serve their growing populations.
Even through these changes, the three anchor communities were isolated. However, better transportation allowed the growing tourism industry of Sedona to entice workers from Cottonwood and Clarkdale to seek employment in resorts, hotels and restaurants.
Meanwhile, working- and middle-class Sedona renters who couldn’t afford the increasing housing prices sought to buy affordable homes Cottonwood and Clarkdale. The internet’s further inter-connectivity brought the communities closer together economically.
The growing wine industry of Page Springs and Clarkdale will likely change the Verde Valley even further in the years to come.
Sedona’s landlocked city limits mean any substantive housing growth will be in other communities. The dwindling population of the Sedona area’s student population is indicative of the fewer numbers of young families living in the area.
Adding to that increasing traffic problems — or at least the impression of endless traffic gridlock — an inflexible noise ordinance that kills local music and nightlife, self-destructive opposition to destination marketing and the economic benefits brought by the Sedona Chamber of Commerce, and the myopic NIMBYism [Not In My Backyard] attitude of many residents that stifles business redevelopments and affordable housing projects could prevent Sedona from adapting to the coming changes.
New hotels and resorts in other parts of the Verde Valley focused not on Sedona’s red rocks but on tourism directed at the growing wine industry are coming. When that boom begins, visitors will still come to Sedona for the hiking and red rocks, but it may only be for a Jeep tour or day trip during their wine vacation, with fewer planning overnight and multi-day stays, and fewer secondary purchases at stores and restaurants that generate the majority of the city’s tax revenue.
While some NIMBYs may welcome the slow drop in daily visitors, it will also lower the demand for Sedona housing, reducing the value of their homes.
To properly adapt, Sedona residents must press officials to make traffic improvements, be friendlier to businesses that want to bring back the once vibrant and dynamic nightlife of decades past, encourage positive developments that keep our economy strong and we, ourselves, must be less inclined to reject every new change simply for being “change.”
Sedona has never been a static city and attempts to arrest our economy as changes come will leave us scrambling too late to cope unless begin to act with long-term vision.