On a beautiful fall afternoon nature lovers gathered along Oak Creek to celebrate one of Sedona’s natural gems.

A warm fall breeze blew through the trees lining the creek, rattling the colorful leaves and reminding us of the wonders of the world around us and the importance of preserving it.

The Benefactors of Red Rock State Park gathered at the home of Linda Goldenstein and Bill Lacy on Sunday, Nov. 7, to celebrate progress made and encourage more effort to keep Red Rock State Park open despite drastic state budget cuts.

When the state announced last year it would close parks due to lack of funding the Benefactors rose to the challenge, raising more than $70,000 to keep the park open.

Thanks to their efforts visitors continue to enjoy strolls along the park’s trails, meditative moments along Oak Creek and educational programs broadening their knowledge of the Earth and the processes responsible for shaping it.

Nature is a gift to all of us and recreation is a right those of us who live around here understand and cherish.

Others, however, don’t have the courage to embrace the freedom of the outdoors, and Red Rock State Park plays a major role in helping those individuals take the first leap.

The park offers a safe place for residents or visitors uncertain of their outdoor skills to enjoy nature and Sedona’s beauty.

Children also benefit from the park’s ability to teach appreciation for nature and an understanding of how it all works.

Without the park, someone anxious to enjoy a hiking trail while on vacation may never hear the birds sing, watch the lizards jet about or encounter the beauty of Oak Creek.

Without the park, Sedona and Verde Valley students may not experience first-rate environmental education and learn to love and protect nature.

Without the park, thousands of tourists each year may not be encouraged to spend a little more time in Sedona.

Another election season has finally come to an end, and for some, it couldn’t have come quick enough.

Arizonans were bombarded with negative campaigning as candidates seemed more concerned with pointing out all the bad attributes of their opponents than telling voters what they planned to do for us.

I, for one, am more interested in learning candidates’ positions on issues facing our state and communities than learning about their personal lives from their opponent.

Waging war against an opponent rather than reaching out to voters seems to be the chosen mode of campaigning, however.

The hardest part for voters is determining who or what to believe.

Each camp claims to be telling the truth about budgets, laws and spending but how does a voter know who’s right when everyone will swear their facts are accurate?

Oftentimes two candidates are both technically right, but they are looking at the same facts and figures in different contexts.

The good news is we’ve made it through another round of mudslinging as election day, Tuesday, Nov. 2, came and went.

Now, we’ll get a break from the bombardment and hopefully elected officials can go back to doing their jobs rather than raking each other over the coals.

I’d like to think maybe it will get better in the future, but campaign trends don’t seem to be headed anywhere but further down the negativity highway.

A candidate who takes the high road and abstains from negative campaign might be just what voters want to see come next election season.

A dark cloud formed over Sedona Red Rock High School’s homecoming festivities mid-celebration when the very activity it is based upon was canceled.

SRRHS Athletic Director John Parks announced the school planned to cancel the Friday, Oct. 22, homecoming football game due to “too many injuries” and only “10 players able to suit up.”

The injured players were on the varsity team, which has been competing with only 14 players because first-year Head Coach Rick Walsworth refuses to suit any of his freshmen players for varsity.

Walsworth, who previously coached at Mingus Union High School, believes there needs to be separate freshman and varsity football teams in order to build a stronger program, and he may be right.

However, homecoming isn’t just any game and the decision Walsworth made affected more than his team.

The program Walsworth came from at Mingus has no shortage of Marauders trying out for the
football team where the sport is the pride of the school. Sedona’s program isn’t at this level, as is evidenced by the meager turnout of athletes willing to suit up.

Walsworth’s efforts to build a stronger program in Sedona are commendable, and not suiting freshmen to play at the varsity level puts the team on the right track.

But this was homecoming. He should have made the exception for this one game and allowed a few freshmen to play.

SRRHS senior students are the people involved who should be most upset. They were robbed of their final high school homecoming celebration where it’s their turn to shine. Earlier in the week the homecoming bonfire was also canceled due to weather.

There was still a pep assembly Friday where the king and queen were crowned, but by then students already knew the football game they were getting pepped up for wouldn’t follow.

Without a football team running onto its home field, a homecoming king and queen crowned during halftime and cheerleaders performing for the crowd, homecoming isn’t much different than prom.

I have been fortunate to have always lived in beautiful areas where outdoor recreation was the norm.

From Lander and Jackson Hole, Wyo., to Missoula, Mont., beautiful scenery to enjoy was never scarce.

During all of my outdoor adventures I never paid to play outside a national park until I moved to Sedona, which was when I was introduced to the Red Rock Pass.

I understand the trails see more than local traffic with visitors from around the world flocking to the red rocks to recreate. More feet means more upkeep and maintenance for the cash-strapped U.S. Forest Service.

However, I don’t think it’s right to charge locals to enjoy their beautiful backyard.

When I lived within a few blocks of the Bell Rock trail system in the Village of Oak Creek I easily got around paying the fee by simply walking or biking to the trailhead.

Now that I live much further away I’m not a regular in the Red Rock Ranger District any longer.
The Red Rock Pass appears to be USFS’s attempts to also cash in on the tourist traffic in Sedona, which is legitimate, but don’t discourage residents’ use of the forest too.

People who can show proof of residency in Sedona or the Verde Valley with a valid driver’s license should either not have to pay the fee or get a pass at a discounted rate.

Locals would still be required to get a pass to hang in their car, but they shouldn’t have to pay much for it if at all.

Other requirements of the Red Rock Pass were recently challenged with the outcome not favoring the pass policy.

A U.S. judge ruled the pass cannot be required for parking anywhere in the Red Rock Ranger District, as USFS currently requires.

The ruling says in order for USFS to cite a motorist for not displaying a Red Rock Pass the motorist’s vehicle must be parked at a developed trailhead where he or she has access to amenities provided by USFS, such as trash cans and restrooms.

The Red Rock Ranger District needs to rethink its Red Rock Pass policy and ask residents to provide input.

Jackson Hole sees just as many, if not more, visitors than Sedona each year; yet, the Jackson Ranger District in the Bridger-Teton National Forest hasn’t deemed it necessary to charge people to enjoy the outdoors.

Just as we were preparing to put our election coverage in full swing, one of two local races ended abruptly with the resignation of one candidate.

Carolyn Huggins, who joined the race for two seats on the Sedona-Oak Creek School District Governing Board as the third candidate, announced she is ending her campaign.

With Huggins out of the race, the two vacant seats will be filled by the only two candidates left — Karen McClelland and Zachary Richardson.

Originally, we planned to handle the election in the same manner we handle other local elections.

One of our reporters was going to write profile articles on each of the candidates, and then the candidates themselves would have had the opportunity to submit an essay for publication in thesame issue.

School board candidate coverage was scheduled to begin Wednesday, Oct. 6.

Now, without a race at all, the election coverage formalities are not necessary.

The race for three seats on the Sedona Fire District Governing Board, however, is just heating up.

Our election coverage starts Friday, Oct. 1, with our first round of candidate profiles and essays.

We will feature two candidates each Friday until we’ve given all eight candidates equal coverage. Candidate profiles and essays will end Friday, Oct. 22, with the final two candidates.

The order in which the candidates will be featured was determined by alphabetizing them by their last name, as is done on the ballot. This way it was not up to us to determine who should be featured when.

I received a phone call a few weeks ago from a candidate hoping to move up in the schedule, and I told the candidate I was sorry, but in order for that to happen the candidate would have to change his or her name.

Our primary goal is to bring our readers the facts about each candidate and help voters make educated decisions when it’s time to head to the polls Tuesday, Nov. 2.

Visionaries in Sedona and the Verde Valley think it is possible to diversify our local economy.

Rather than rely solely on tourism to bring jobs and tax dollars into our communities, they are looking for an industry capable of supporting itself while also possibly attracting visitors to the area.

 

 

These entrepreneurs are turning to the vine to create new business and jobs.
Several vineyards now operate in the Verde Valley and off-site tasting rooms are popping up in the communities.

Some, including the Verde Valley Wine Consortium, think wine is the future of Sedona and the Verde Valley’s economy. The consortium formed to support the development and expansion of the wine industry in Northern Arizona.

The wine bug has also bitten the education community with Yavapai College introducing a viticulture program where students learn the process from vine to bottle, along with developing an image and essential marketing tools.

This fall the college offered three courses in winemaking including introduction to viticulture and classes on United States wines and wines from around the world.

A vineyard was constructed at the Verde Valley campus in Clarkdale where students will receive hands-on experience and someday produce bottles of wine.

Once the wine industry is established and self-sustaining, the hope is it will actually supplement tourism by drawing visitors to Northern Arizona’s wine country, and this already seems to be happening.

Sedona Winefest, which takes place Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 25 and Sept. 26, marks an important milestone in the quest to put our area on the map as a wine destination.

Relying on tourism alone to support our economy has proved difficult during the recession. Now, it’s time to diversify and build a stronger economy capable of absorbing some of the shock when the financial market gets shaky.

Cheers to a fruitful future for Sedona and the Verde Valley.

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