On Monday, Jan. 24, I relied on public transportation to get work.

Every few months I take the shuttle provided by the Northern Arizona Intergovernmental Public Transportation Authority and local municipalities from Cottonwood to Uptown. It used to be the Sedona RoadRunner on its way to its Uptown circulator route. Now it’s the Verde Lynx, a drastic improvement in comfort.

Monday’s ride was the best I’ve had yet with the service. Both buses were on time getting me to my office before 8 a.m. and home when I expected.

Ridership still seemed low with eight people riding in with me and five riding back to Cottonwood. However, three people did get on in Uptown and off in West Sedona using the service to get around town.

A recent Sedona Red Rock News online poll — which is not scientific for obvious reasons associated with Internet voting — indicated those polled feel public transportation between Sedona and other Verde Valley communities should be the top priority when it comes to public transportation.

My experience on the bus yesterday reinforces that belief.

Everyone on the shuttle going to work knew each other and asked about others they hadn’t seen in a few days. I seemed to be the only outsider, and they welcomed me warmly with a “good morning” and “have a nice day.”

These people were on their way to work getting off at bus stops all over the city, and they’ve come to rely on the service to get them there.

For me, riding the Lynx is usually about convenience. I should ride more often, and I always say I’m going to use the service. However, realistically, I only ride when company is visiting and needs my vehicle or I’m meeting my fiance later in the day in Sedona. At those times, I am very thankful we have the service.

Arizona is broke, which isn’t a secret.

Many groups, however, refuse to give up without a fight or at least an attempt to ward off complete elimination of their programs.

Arizona State Parks and the individual parks themselves have fought tooth and nail to stay afloat, particularly in Sedona and the Verde Valley.

In Sedona, Slide Rock State Park wasn’t in jeopardy of closing because it is one of few parks that actually generates revenue, but Red Rock State Park and its volunteers have fought for each day the park has stayed open.

In Camp Verde, a massive volunteer movement kept Fort Verde State Historical Park from closing.

Jerome State Historical Park fought back from the grave, in a sense, rallying to reopen after the state shut it down for structural repairs without a completion date set.

Cottonwood’s Dead Horse Ranch State Park is virtually untouchable. It, like Slide Rock, actually turns a profit each year.

In an effort to develop a plan for saving the parks, reporter Mark Lineberger wrote Wednesday, Jan. 19, a nonprofit group, the Arizona State Parks Foundation, commissioned a study. The report gave two suggestions for parks in the Verde Valley — limit hours or seasons of operation at some parks and develop other revenue generators.

Both ideas could help local parks stay above water, but only if administered correctly.
The study recommends closing the Fort Verde, Red Rock and Jerome parks November through March.

A four-month closure of Red Rock State Park isn’t going to go over well with Sedona residents.

A one- to two-month closure may be possible during December and January when tourism numbers are down, but Sedona fights to extend its tourism season every year. An extended closure could be viewed as detrimental to these efforts.

At Slide Rock State Park, one of the state’s most successful parks, the study recommends expanding the revenue base with possibly a zip line or a café.

Extra attention and care needs to be taken if this is the route Slide Rock takes. The point of designating a property a state park is to preserve its history and natural beauty. Building cafés and recreation equipment on a site set aside for preservation is tricky.

The best bet would be to brainstorm park-specific ideas that fit with the theme. Maybe Slide Rock could have a dessert café where desserts are made from apples, drawing a connection to the park’s apple orchard history.

Who should manage the parks and whether a private group should step in to be a liaison between the state and a park was also addressed.

In the Verde Valley, a regional operation responsible for all of the area’s parks would be the best option. Then money raised at our parks would stay here to support their operations, and the state wouldn’t be able to take it away.

The population of Arizona is growing, according to figures in the 2010 census.

In fact, the population has grown by 24.6 percent since 2000 bringing the total number of residents to 6,392,017, up from 5,130,632 when the last census was taken.

The U.S. Census Bureau announced the population counts Dec. 21.

Arizona’s surge brings with it the benefit of an additional seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and, maybe most importantly, the promise of better economic times to come.

The West and South appear to be in better shape than the Midwest and Northeast. Population migration reflects where jobs are available — people move to where they can work — and the West’s population, which includes Arizona, grew by 13.8 percent and the South’s grew by 14.3.

The Midwest was the only region where a state’s population actually dropped over the last 10 years — Michigan — which provides further evidence population shift is driven by the economy.

The Midwest’s total population increased by a mere 3.9 percent and the Northeast actually did worse, reporting a 3.2 percent increase.

Locally, the population of Yavapai County expand-ed enough to force the county to add two districts to our current three-district governing system.

The increase in state and regional population offers hope for our economically depressed state.
A few years ago, the future appeared bleak as home prices crashed, Arizonans lost their jobs and neighborhoods stood nearly empty with vacant homes on every street.

Today, for-sale signs are coming down as families move into the once-abandoned homes as people learn again how to make the best living they can and live within their means.

The recovery isn’t going to be short, and it will be painful, as recovery from any crash can be.

However, the news people are still moving to Arizona — often referred to as a transplant state — means there will be relief from the hard times.

After reading feature writer Lu Stitt’s wrap-up of news events for 2010, I began thinking about the strides made by the Sedona Red Rock News and our staff over the past 12 months.

The last year was a year of change at the paper with new staff added, promotions made and a shift toward incorporating technology into our coverage.

It took hard work on the part of every employee in the newsroom, sales offices and press room to make the newspaper’s success in 2010 happen.

On the sales side, Kyle Larson took over both the display and classified advertising departments as the advertising director and led his staff to claim six awards in the Arizona Newspapers Association’s advertising competition.

Larson also welcomed two new sales representatives, Al Paliwoda and Christine Trcic, this year.
In the editorial department, leadership also shifted when Christopher Fox Graham became the assistant managing editor, and I took over as managing editor.

Photojournalist Tom Hood joined the team in January and brought home a second-place award from the ANA Better Newspapers Contest. Reporter Patrick Whitehurst came on board in November.

Our website, redrocknews.com, took home first place in the state competition for newspapers with similar circulation and became popular with readers as they began commenting.

The most commented-on story this year was “Sedona man plans to run for president,” which received 29 comments.

Photojournalist Michele Bradley, who now works at our sister papers, earned a first- and third-place award from ANA, and sports reporter Brian Bergner Jr. and Production Manager John Stabe won first place for their Scorpions football season opener page design. The newspaper, as a whole, also won several other awards at the competition including honors for copy editing excellence and best use of photography.

We also expanded our collection of columns inviting journalism and yearbook students from Sedona Red Rock High School to write a weekly column, which gives all of us a look at the small world sitting on the west edge of the city.

Our staff has had a good year and we look forward to continuing our award-winning coverage in 2011 as Sedona’s longtime news source residents have come to rely upon.

Happy new year.

Exercise more.

Stop smoking.

Drink less.

Eat healthy.

Save money.

Spend more time with family.

Every year Americans vow to drop the vice with the tightest hold on their lives. Every year, most people fail.

The reason for failure? Setting the bar too high, not having an effective plan to achieve the resolution and expecting to fail all play a part in keeping people from bettering themselves year by year, dropping one habit at a time.

If one of the above reasons prevents most people from keeping their resolution, a new way to go about the tradition needs to be established.

I suggest lowering the bar. Why continually set yourself up for disappointment at the beginning of each year? Instead, be realistic and save yourself the inevitable feeling of failure.

Make keeping a resolution simple to boost confidence and create the feeling of accomplishment as you set out to conquer another year.

How about, “I resolve to brush my teeth,” or “I will drink water.”

The right resolution is foolproof and guarantees success.

I suggest taking baby steps. The first year on this program, resolve to do something you absolutely can’t fail at, something a child or intelligent animal does naturally. By doing this, you’re bound to feel great when it’s time to set the next resolution.

Then, you’ll be ready to up the ante.

Resolve to drive on the right side of the road only or take the trash out when it’s full. The second year’s resolution needs to include a task commonly accomplished by most people, but able to be shattered with one swift yank of the steering wheel.

Every year, set your sights approximately 1 millimeter higher and positive results are almost guaranteed.

By following the realists’ resolution regiment, within 20 to 25 years a participant can expect to reach a level where quitting smoking or drinking, exercising more or saving money truly can be achieved.

Until then, don’t get ahead of yourself.

Every year, around Thanksgiving, my mother asks me what I want for Christmas.

With each passing holiday season it becomes harder and harder to come up with ideas.

This year, while trying to dream up suggestions to avoid receiving anymore kitchen gadgets — no offense, Mom — I realized I am very lucky not to want anything other than what I’ve already received in nonmaterial gifts this year.

This year I received some of life’s best gifts.

I received a promotion to managing editor of Larson Newspapers’ three publications, a dream I’ve had since I was little girl.

Not too long after my promotion, another of my childhood dreams was fulfilled when I received quite possibly the best gift of all, a marriage proposal and a diamond ring from Mr. Right.

Along with the proposal came a wonderful family who has welcomed me with open arms and made me feel like one of their own on trips back East to visit them.

Aside from a job promotion, marriage proposal and family that tripled in size, I have many other gifts in my life that I am thankful for every day.

I have a mother, father, two sisters, future brother-in-law and niece I love very much.

I am healthy, active and young. I have good friends, some from further back than kindergarten.

I have two beautiful black labs, Zeke and Fletcher, to accompany me on any adventure.

I have a cozy home and someone wonderful to share it with.

I have a boss and staff who make my job enjoyable and extremely interesting.

I live in a beautiful area of the country with ample opportunity of any outdoor activity.

And, maybe most importantly, I am able to recognize my good fortune and want what I have rather than what I don’t, which is itself a gift.

Merry Christmas

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