Environmental Stewardship: ATVs When I was elected to City Council in 2010, there was one Jeep rental agency and no ATV rentals in Sedona. Today there are 6 ATV rental outlets in Sedona catering to tourists.
While the city and Forest Service has worked with the ATV rental outlets to encourage ATV renters to stay on designated trails, those who just want to roam the country side looking for motorized thrills are causing major damage to the lands within the National Forest, particularly west of Sedona.
There is also the noise pollution on our city streets as AVT renters leave the rental outlets on SR 89A and SR 179 racing out to their adventures on Broken Arrow and the trails off FR525. The closure of Soldier Pass to ATVs and non-permitted Jeeps is a direct result of the increased ATV activity in Sedona.
ATV owners trailering their ATVs to Sedona park and unload their ATVs on residential streets becoming a nuisanceto traffic and residents. They also park in our shopping center parking lots taking up multiple parking spaces on busy weekends.
A Citizen’s group has made recommendations that will find its way to the City Council regarding better management of ATVs in Sedona. The City Council will need to act on these suggestions.
These suggestions include:
Environmental Stewardship: Jeep Trails The closure of the Soldier Pass Jeep road to private vehicles and the permit-only policy for the Casner Mountain road begs the question of when the overworked Broken Arrow will be closed to the public and limited to permitted tours only. Access to the largely unknown Oak Creek Homestead once used by Day in the West Jeeps has been closed to the public. The Coconino National Forest Travel Management Plan has closed hundreds of miles of Forest Service jeep roads because of their unsustainable maintenance. Certainly, the Forest Service has the mandate to protect national forest lands, but at what cost to residents. Again, begging the question of how much tourism in Sedona is enough.
Environmental Stewardship: Non-Motorized Trails As many of you have experienced, hiking in Sedona is not what it used to be. In addition to overcrowding in the 16 local traildhead parking lots (580 spaces), popular trails like Devils Bridge, Cathedral Rock, and Courthouse Vista, are so overcrowded with hikers and bikers that it hardly worth the effort to find a parking place. The Forest Service is building 27 miles of new trails connecting to current Forest Service trails served by the Girdner and Aerie Trailheads. The project is adopting several illegal bike trails, rerouting some of the illegal trails to be sustainable and adding several new trails. Once upon a time, people building illegal trails on national forest lands would be prosecuted. Now the overburdened Forest Service policy is to adopt these new trails which is probably a realistic and practical strategy given the increased pressure of public access.
The Verde Valley Cyclists Coalition (VVCC) is raising $75,000 to help defray the trail construction costs. There is little doubt that this could be a community asset for outdoor recreation, particularly mountain biking. What is being labeled the Western Gateway Trail System will take the pressure off many of the existing Sedona Forest Service trails that are being overwhelmed by the rise in mountain biking popularity by visitors.
Despite the many thousands of volunteer hours annually invested by Friends of the Forest, the VVCC, and other organizations, the Forest Service, with their continuing budget cuts, does not have the resources to keep up with the existing 300-mile trail system. We need to ask the question; how many miles of trails are enough and at what point does Sedona have too many trails to be sustainably managed?.
What We Need to Do: By implementing more effective strategies to limit day trip tourism to Sedona and working to focus those visitors into multi-night stays, tourists would have Sedona experience considerably enhanced. The lodging industry would find their guests much happier and residents of Sedona would find their quality of life greatly improved.
The Chamber’s advertising program is supposedly focusing the marketing of Sedona to lower visitation times of the year. The question needs to be asked, are they are successful fulfilling that goal? Perhaps other additional strategies such as incentives by the business community that encourages multi-night visits at slower visitor times would benefit everyone.
And perhaps most importantly, the magnificent scenery and outdoor experiences that drew us to live here would be better protected.