By Kevin Kuhl, USFS Red Rock Ranger District
I started my last update by saying “This season has likely been one for the record books…”. Little did I know it would be for reasons not yet fully revealed from the cold and snowy skies. We got a lot of moisture this winter, maybe not record-breaking but certainly going down in the Trail Crew’s record book. While under normal circumstances this would have been well received, the white fluffy stuff didn’t make our lives any easier on the Cathedral Rock Renewal Project.
During the two months the Trail Crew worked on the Cathedral project, we experienced snow, hail, freezing rain and thick ice – sometimes all in the same day! Even so, our Crews only missed a few days. And, the results were impressive: more than 320 ft of rock work, 700 ft of fencing and 800 ft of restoration work that included planting 200 native seed balls cultivated with assistance from our RRRD biologist.
The efforts of our Forest Service crew were assisted by eight weeks of support from American Conservation Experience (ACE) crews, funded by the Great American Outdoors Act. Additional trail work below “the crack” was completed by Summit to Sea Trails Specialists. Summit to Sea addressed issues below a large slick rock drainage, reconstructed a 30-ft retaining wall, installed check steps for better access to “the crack”, and completed restoration work on user-created routes. The Cathedral project was also supported by Friends of Forest and The Westerners Hiking Club, who collaborated to provide user education while the trail closure was in force during February and March. Their contribution was key to our success.
One silver lining to the weather was consistent soil moisture, which is massively important for the trail work we perform. Not only did this help our crews accomplish 200 miles of maintenance in the Red Rock District, but it also helped with our public volunteer events. We held 35 public and Friends of the Forest volunteer events, with 446 volunteers contributing ~2400 hours of maintenance. This volunteer labor is valued at ~$70,000 and is key to the success of our program and mission.
In addition to our stellar volunteer numbers, we also diversified our public volunteer event sponsorship to include Sedona Red Rock Trail Fund, Verde Valley Cycling Coalition, Thunder Mountain Bikes, City of Sedona, Trail Lovers, Wildland Trekking, Santa Cruz Bicycles, Pink Jeep Tours, Enchantment Resort and Beaver Creek Trails Coalition. These additional sponsors provided awareness of our events to their social media followers, customers and employees – for deeper community engagement.
The Red Rock District is now working on a plan for the new Verde Valley Circle Trail along with members of the Verde Front Trails Working Group. The proposal for this trail includes roughly 100 miles of non-motorized, single-track trail for hikers, equestrians, and bicycles that would circumnavigate the entire Verde Valley. The trail would connect users with the various communities and additional recreational opportunities in the Coconino and Prescott National Forests. Currently, the majority of the Prescott National Forest alignments are approved and in various stages of implementation. The conceptual design for the Coconino National Forest segment of the trail is being drafted by Summit to Sea Trails Specialists. They are working through various alignments proposed by the Red Rock Ranger District, Verde Valley Cycling Coalition and Beaver Creek Trails Coalition, looking at feasibility of construction, overall connectivity and other factors. Public scoping on this project has not occurred yet.
Trail Crew removing rock falls on Hiline Trail after heavy winter storms.
Red Rock Trail Crew using gas powered rock saw to shape sandstone for check step and retaining wall construction.
Summit To Sea retaining wall and check step construction below “the crack”.
Crew setting rocks for retaining wall.
Volunteers assisting with tread maintenance and improving ground control on Feb. 11th.
Canyon of Fools Volunteer event March 11th.
Crew member carrying gallons of water for rock saw and their own personal gear up to Cathedral.