Project: Red Rock Country Trailhead Transit
October 20, 2021
To: Interested Forest Service Parties
Project: Red Rock Country Trailhead Transit and Parking Restrictions
Scoping: Oct. 20-Nov. 19, 2021
The Coconino National Forest’s Red Rock Ranger District proposes to expand mass transit services at select trailheads located within the greater Sedona area. Alternative transportation efforts would incorporate permitted shuttle services at five trailheads and include parking restrictions at Cathedral Rock Trailhead and Soldiers Pass Trailhead.
Traffic and congested parking during peak visitation are frequent complaints by Sedona residents and visitors. Popular trailheads are often beyond parking capacity. Parking demand then displaces visitors more than a half mile away into undesignated areas, surrounding neighborhoods, and surface streets. This traffic pattern results in resource damage, adverse public safety, and diminished resident quality of life. Safety issues occur along roadways leading to pedestrian danger, due to limited lines of sight, fast-moving vehicles, and distracted motorists.
Forest Service studies have identified alternative transportation as a solution in the past. In 2013, the City of Sedona and others partnered with the Forest Service to identify transit service options and critical needs to make such a service operational; however, no immediate actions were taken. In 2016, the district authorized seven private outfitter-and-guide companies to operate shuttles at the majority of the greater Sedona area trailheads; these permits were not utilized. (1)
Purpose and Need
Access to popular trailheads can be improved by utilizing alternative modes of transportation for visitors who would otherwise drive their own vehicles to trailheads. A proposed transit program, operated by the City of Sedona, would offer reliable transportation to and from popular trailheads. Other forms of transport would be encouraged including walking, biking, and drop-off services. Success would meet or exceed the requirements set forth in the 2018 Land and Resource Management Plan for the Coconino National Forest (Coconino forest plan),2 supporting elements, including:
• Guideline for Trails and Trailheads: Trails and trailheads should be designed, built, rerouted, or maintained utilizing current best practices that promote sustainable trail surfaces, prevent conflicts with neighboring lands, address impacts to other resources, and consider user experiences. (p. 116)
• Desired Conditions for Scenic Roads: Would move the Red Rock All-American Road toward the desired condition of providing alternative transportation to increase thesustainability of tourism. (pp. 187-188)
(1) Cathedral Rock and Soldiers Pass trailheads were not included in the prior 2016 permit approval.
(2) Coconino Forest Plan https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/coconino/landmanagement/planning/?cid=stelprdb5334655
This sustainable recreation opportunity would be a joint venture between the district and the city to enhance the experience of visitors and residences alike while maintaining access to public lands. Incorporating a transit system that includes Forest Service trailheads is expected to improve public safety and the quality of life for both Sedona’s residents and visitors while lessening traffic congestion impacts.
The City of Sedona seeks to operate trailhead transit, providing shuttle service from strategically located “park and ride” locations to the most heavily impacted trailheads in the Sedona area to improve recreational access and public safety. The Forest Service proposes to restrict parking at Cathedral Rock and Soldiers Pass trailheads and encourage the use of the shuttle system or other modes of transport (walking, biking, and drop-offs) and allow for safe shuttle operations. The availability of transit is anticipated to offset temporary trailhead closures by allowing greater access to trails without waiting for open parking spaces or lengthy pedestrian treks long busy roadways. Shuttle buses would operate at five trailheads, as listed (see map below).
• Dry Creek Trailhead (Forest Road 152)
• Little Horse Trailhead (State Route 179)
• Mescal Trailhead (Forest Road 152D)
Shuttle Locations with parking restrictions*
• Cathedral Rock Trailhead (Back O’ Beyond Road)
• Soldiers Pass Trailhead (Canyon Shadows Drive)
To accommodate entry of shuttle buses at the five shuttle locations, modifications would be assessed to assure the safe loading and unloading of passengers. Modifications may include adding a designated shuttle stop, relocating parking stalls, or closing select parking stalls during shuttle operations.
*Parking Restrictions at Cathedral Rock and Soldiers Pass (3) Trailheads: To encourage the use of alternative transportation, this project proposes to close public parking at Cathedral Rock and Soldiers Pass trailheads during shuttle operations. Therefore, public parking would not be allowed 8 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Thursday-Sunday when the shuttle operates but would be allowed outside of shuttle operation hours. Visitors would be encouraged to walk and bicycle to the trailheads.
Cathedral Rock Trailhead Proposed Re-Design: Cathedral Rock Trailhead parking area includes both a city-owned lot and a Forest Serviced-owned lot. (4) Modifications to the city-owned parking lot at Cathedral Rock may be needed to accommodate shuttle access (see Map 2). Trailhead re-design would convert the existing pedestrian path to a motorized route that exits onto Back O’ Beyond Road. A new pedestrian path would be constructed to connect the lots for access.
Hours of transit service operation would be 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, beginning March 2022, offered year round, with increased daily operations during peak-use holidays and spring break months. Visitors parked prior to the 8 a.m. shuttle start time would be allowed to remain in the lots. The shuttles would operate on an approximate 15- to 45-minute frequency. Schedule and frequency of service would be subject to change based on need, trail usage levels, or other factors.
(3) Current access hours at Soldiers Pass are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. This transit project will not alter existing hours.
(4) Both Cathedral Rock parking areas would be closed to public parking during shuttle operations.
Monitoring of the Transit Program: Monitoring would be conducted jointly between the City of Sedona and the Coconino National Forest. The Forest Service may choose to cease closures and re-open Cathedral and Soldiers Pass trailheads to public parking during shuttle operation at any time. Modifications to the schedule and routes would progress as needed, to ensure:
• Public access
• Resource protection
• User experience
• Recreation opportunities for a variety of visitors
• Expansion of the program and additional trailhead shuttle locations
The Forest Service National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Regulation 36 CFR 220.6 provides that a proposed action may be categorically excluded from further analysis and documentation in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) or Environmental Assessment (EA) only if there are no resource conditions related to the proposed action and if:
• The proposed action is within one of the categories in the Department of Agriculture (USDA)NEPA policies and procedures in Title 7, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 1b (7 CFR part 1b) or
• The proposed action is within a category listed in Title 36 CFR 220.6(d) or (e).
Based on past experience with similar projects, a categorical exclusion is the proposed level of analysis for this project. This project falls within the following category:
36 CFR 220.6(d)(12) Issuance of a new authorization or amendment of an existing authorization for recreation special uses that occur on existing roads or trails, in existing facilities, in existing recreation sites, or in areas where such activities are allowed.
As part of the project, resource reviews by Forest Service archaeologists, biologists, engineers, and hydrologists will occur, with any needed surveys for ground-disturbing activities.
Implementation of the proposed project would occur in spring 2022, depending on partner support and funding.
How to Comment
We invite you to provide substantive comments regarding the proposed action. “Substantive comments” are within the scope of the project and the decision to be made, are specific to the proposed activities in the project area and have a direct relationship to the project. If you cite or include references with your comments, we ask that you state specifically how those references relate to the proposed action. Include hard copies or functioning internet links to any references. Comments should be provided prior to the close of the comment period by Nov. 19, 2021.
Submit comments in writing, through one of the following methods:
via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org (include “Trailhead Transit” in the subject line);
via mail to Red Rock Ranger District, Attention: Trailhead Transit, P.O. Box 20429, Sedona, AZ 86341;
via facsimile to (928) 203-7539;
or in person at the Red Rock Ranger District Office, 8375 State Route 179, Sedona, AZ 86351.
Comments received in response to this solicitation, including names and addresses of those who comment, will be considered part of the public record on this proposed action.
View project information online or at https://tinyurl.com/TrailheadTransit.
For questions, contact Recreation Special Uses Permit Administrator Mark Goshorn at the Red Rock Ranger District at email@example.com.
Thank you for your continued interest in the management of National Forest System lands,
Some questions are addressed on this City of Sedona transit page.
Question: Where will the Trailhead Shuttles deploy from and where will they go?
The City has identified three potential “park & ride” locations for trailhead shuttle access to serve the West Sedona area and State Route 179 corridor. Staff is engaged in negotiations to lease two of those sites, and is assessing if the Ranger Station on Brewer Road will be used as a temporary shuttle exchange.
Currently, the West Sedona trailhead shuttles will go to the Dry Creek, Mescal and Soldiers Pass trailheads. The 179 corridor shuttle is planned to go to the Cathedral and Little Horse trailheads.