The Sedona Westerners Applaud New and "Adopted" Trails
In early January I sat for an interview with Jennifer Burns, Recreation Staff Officer, and Francisca Adrian, newly hired as the “Rivers, Trails and Wilderness Coordinator” for the Red Rock Ranger District. We discussed the challenges of managing the Ranger District’s popular trail system, and the in-process improvements and additions. A lot is happening of interest to hikers.
In a 2011 resident survey, the National Forest trails were rated as our community’s most valued recreation asset, and there is no question that tourists value our trail system. The number of users is huge-500,000 hikers, bikers and equestrians annually share the trails around Sedona, and usage keeps rising. This level of use requires not only a dedication to careful creation and maintenance, but the help of individual residents and numerous partnerships, which include the City of Sedona, Sedona Chamber, both counties, Sedona Westerners, the Verde Valley Cycling Coalition, and Friends of the Forest.
“Trail maintenance is made more challenging here,” according to Jennifer, “by a legacy of trails not built to be sustainable when originally established.” They were just “where people went.” Some were placed on top of very steep old jeep trails, as in the Soldiers Wash, Sugarloaf and Dry Creek areas. Hikers notice how “gullied out” some of our trails are. Erosion, by water, or foot and bike traffic, is constant. Jennifer added that, although volunteers provide a staggering number of hours maintaining local trails, it is a fraction of what is needed to keep the trail system adequately drained and signed.
Another complication is the large number of “social trails” established
out of neighborhoods, or as connectors between official trails, although many
may be logically located. A serious problem is the “epidemic” of
unauthorized actual trail construction occurring around Sedona These “bootleg
trails” potentially impact cultural sites, soils, plants and wildlife.
In addition, since they are not signed, visitors do get lost on them.
The Forest Service Plan directive is to have a “robust trail system…with loops and trails in places where people want to go.” However, as Jennifer stated, “there is a reason why we go through a careful process prior to trail adoption.” We have a very high density of archeological sites, plus sensitive soils and plants, and wildlife. Biological and hydrologist sign-offs and archeological-resource surveys are required. And, “How many trails are enough?”
Recognizing the demand for trails, the Service has stepped up its analysis and adoption efforts in the past two years. New trails and signage are under construction in the Soldiers Wash area, the Dry Creek area, and the area between VOC and Cathedral Rock. In some places, a logical social trail is being officially adopted, and others in the area will be “naturalized.” Adopted social trails often require reroutes and construction for sustainability, however.
By the end of March, the new Adobe Jack Trailhead, on 89A westbound between the Post Office and Soldiers pass Rd., will access the Soldiers Wash area and allow connection with the Soldiers Pass and Jordan Trails. By April, “new”/adopted signed trails will connect the Bell Rock/Castle Rock area and Yavapai Vista parking area to the Templeton Trail. Other social trails will be closed.
By sometime next fall, a new trailhead, with parking and amenities, will be available off Dry Creek Road. It will serve the Lizard head, Girdner, and new Chuckwagon trails, and connect to the Devils’ Bridge Trail, plus alleviating parking problems at the current small lot at the head of forest road 152. Check with the Forest Service for information on the newly adopted and partially rerouted Mescal Trail, and extension, plus other connector trails in the Dry Creek area.
The Forest Service welcomes Francisca Adrian (Adrian) to the Red Rock District staff. Adrian will be coordinating the work on the new trail additions, and will need our help during upcoming volunteer workdays. If you are interested in volunteering, call Adrian at 928-203-7531 for more information.
It’s hard to imagine that before 1995 there were very few trailheads, and that people parked wherever they could to access the forest!
The Westerners always welcome new members. If you are interested in joining the club, log onto our website, www.sedonawesterners.org., for membership information. You may also join at one of our monthly meetings. Our next one will be on Thursday, March 8, beginning at 7p.m. at the Jewish Community of Sedona and the Verde Valley, 100 Meadowlark Drive, Sedona