Sometimes it takes an outsider to get a fresh perspective and accomplish things insiders have given up on.
At the tail end of November, we received an email from Riley Hilbert indicating she wanted to push forward to save the Sedona Cultural Park, the defunct eyesore that has sat vacant for well over a decade.
Hilbert, visiting from out of town over the last several years, wanted to do something to save or restore it.
The park held its last show in the summer of 2003 before the bankrupt facility closed. It was used a few times afterward for Sedona Red Rock High School graduation ceremonies.
I moved to Sedona in spring 2004, so graduations were the only events there I experienced, but even these were amazing spectacles as attendees sat on the grassy semicircles with the open amphitheater and the red rocks beyond. It certainly beats the high school football field and bleachers from which most of us graduated.
We often get requests from new visitors via emails and social media to write about the cultural park, but the fact is there is little to write about.
But Hilbert was different. She had already done research about the park’s history, contacted city of Sedona staffers for information and set up a petition residents and visitors could sign on change.org.
CLICK HERE to sign Riley Hilbert's petition to save the Sedona Cultural Park.
We filled her in with the other details, as we do for many of our curious readers: Namely that owners had tried to get all or part of the park rezoned or redesigned by adding lodging units or commercial spaces, but the city had balked, in part, because Sedona City Council members feared the efforts were attempts to get the rezoning passed, then demolish it entirely for yet another resort or private development, depriving residents of the public space they had been promised when the land was acquired from the U.S. Forest Service.
We also provided Hilbert with information about the owners over the years and links to the current owners, Sathcupa LLC and Woo Woo LLC, both wholly owned by Mike Tennyson, a resident of Custer, S.D., who has spoken several times before the Sedona City Council about plans and proposals to somehow make the park viable for the city, beneficial for residents and financially successful for him.
What makes Hilbert’s effort all that more interesting is that she is only 13 years old. Civic engagement wasn’t even on my radar at that age.
Hilbert plans to deliver the petition to Tennyson when her campaign concludes. It’s unlike other plans or proposals in that it does not advocate what should be done, but rather simply that the park should be saved.
After all the information she provides to website visitors about the park, her letter to Tennyson reads, “We need to save this incredible amphitheater not only because it could be making the city of Sedona lots of money with travelers, but because it is a hidden gem. I mean, how many places can see their favorite band play, while looking at an amazing view? Who knows, maybe you could even be stargazing while listening. All in all, this place needs some major TLC.”
You can read Hilbert’s story on our website at redrocknews.com and sign her petition at change. org. As of press time, Hilbert’s petition has collected more than 1,000 signatures from both residents and visitors. Perhaps with a few hundred more, we could remind Tennyson that residents want something to be done on this private parcel to benefit everyone.
You can also send letters to property owner Mike Tennyson, at Tennyson Investments LLC, 35 S. Fourth St., Custer, S.D. 57730.
We wish Riley Hilbert the best in her efforts.
Christopher Fox Graham
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