An ongoing issue between residents in a Sedona neighborhood and users of off-highway vehicles may soon be coming to a resolution.
The U.S. Forest Service recently announced that a final decision has been made by Coconino National Forest regarding the Soldier Pass motorized use proposal.
The final decision allows motorized use of Soldier Pass Road by one outfitter or guide, currently Red Rock Western Jeep Tours, and up to 12 unguided public vehicles each day after a permit system has been established.
Officials feel this should reduce the volume of motorized traffic in the area and reduce the conflicts that are occurring as a result of this use.
“As the popularity of motorized recreation increases, so do concerns over impacts to other recreational uses and to the quality of life in adjacent residential areas,” Coconino National Forest Supervisor Laura Jo West said in a release. “Moving in this direction represents a balanced approach and will reduce impacts to residential areas while still maintaining recreational opportunities for motorized travel on a four-wheel drive road.”
The project was co-funded by the city of Sedona and Coconino National Forest in response to public concern about increasing motorized use and impacts along Soldier Pass Road.
Based on the studies and gathered information, the USFS came up with four potential options. These alternatives were developed with the public over the last several years.
The four alternatives originally presented included:
- Alternative A was the “no action” alternative and would continue current management.
- Alternative B restricted motorized use of Soldier Pass Road to an outfitter or guide service and adjusted the outfitter or guide use authorization to improve consistency with other motorized outfitter or guide use on the District.
- Alternative C was the proposed action, which would have adjusted the outfitter or guide use authorization to improve consistency with other motorized outfitter or guide use on the district and established a free permit system to limit public use to 12 permits per day.
- Alternative D would have closed Soldier Pass Road to all recreational motorized use.
In the end, the USFS chose Alternative C.
The decision contained additional information about these alternatives, the project’s background and analysis of the potential effects of implementing these alternatives.
During a Sedona City Council meeting last year, Councilman Jon Thompson said this is one of those issues that comes down to tourist vs. community.
“I’m very much in favor of finding the right balance for our community because I feel we owe a lot to what we get from our tourists and we have to have a strong tourism base,” he said. “But, tourists owe a lot to the community. We have to have a good community for the tourists to want to come to. I think a balance is very important.”
The Forest Service reported that the Red Rock Ranger District will form a group that on Thursday, April 20, will begin developing parameters for the public permit system. This will occur within the framework of the existing Off-Highway Vehicle Working Group, which is a partnership of the city of Sedona, USFS and stakeholders interested in off-highway vehicle issues.
Red Rock Western Jeep Tours, the currently-permitted outfitter or guide company, will continue to have motorized access to the road.