Learning to Stack Rocks - A Life Skill

10 May 2023 5:00 PM | Camille Cox (Administrator)

By Dick Williams, SRRTF Director

Hang with me…this is way more interesting than it sounds!

The Cathedral Rock trail work has been the subject of many articles, a two-month forest closure, and countless conversations wondering what was going on up there.  Although the finished product just blends right in, the process to get it there is more than just stacking rocks.

Before beginning the project, the Sedona Red Rock Trail Fund was talking with the Forest Service about how best to get the work done given varying experiences of the incoming work crews. Trail construction here in the Red Rocks is nuanced, so we wanted to make sure the incoming work crews had both the basic skills and knowledge of the specialized techniques to source, cut, move and place the rocks needed to stabilize the new steps and harden the trails.

We learned during the project design phase that there are somewhat different standards between Forest Service trails and National Park trails, the latter typically being more robust for higher usage and longer service life. National Park standards had been chosen for these trails, given their popularity, so it was determined the incoming work crews would benefit from some specialized training. Most importantly, not only would this training help complete Cathedral safely and efficiently, but it would give the crews skills they could use later in life.

Enter Matt Roberts of Flagline Trails and his colleague Mark Loseth. Between them, a series of two-week programs was devised. Since most of the crew members would be new to Red Rock country, it was decided to teach both a fundamentals section and a Red Rock specific section.

Flagline Trails trainers teaching the crew how to use string lines, line levels and tape measures to determine the rise and run of a project site.

The first two weeks, completed late 2022, concentrated on general safety, tool usage, logistics, quarrying and moving and general rock placement. It turns out there are right and wrong ways to move rocks around a hillside. The second two weeks, completed at the beginning of the Cathedral Trail work in February, concentrated on the specifics needed to source and shape and place our Red Rocks. Turns out not all rocks or dirt are created the same.

The entire effort was estimated to cost about $14,000. The SRRTF had already decided it was needed and worthwhile and had decided to fund it.  A chance lunch with Steve Langston, of the Langston Family Foundation, however, changed the funding source.

The Langston Family Foundation has a been a long-time supporter of SRRTF and other local Sedona charities. Upon hearing of this training idea, Steve felt it was a very good opportunity for his family to provide a grant—especially since it benefited young people and gave them life skills for their future. Consequently, they provided $8,000 towards the training.

The training was tremendously successful, and was met with enthusiasm from the crews. You could sense their excitement to get out on the project and try out their new found skills.

Several weeks later, District Ranger Amy Tinderholt relayed some observations and appreciation to the SRRTF board for making the training possible. She noted that the crews truly appreciated the education, and for the first time they felt like someone was investing in their future. This result not only makes it all worthwhile, but also bodes well for attracting crew members to return for future assignments.

Special thanks to the Langston Family Foundation for this show of generosity that will pay dividends for years to come.

The SRRTF and the Forest Service are already exploring making this type of training an annual kick-off for the seasonal work crews.

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