The Coming Year
THIS ARTICLE APPEARS IN THE RED ROCK NEWS
December 10, 2021
It’s hard to believe we are just three weeks from year’s end, and that 2022 is upon us. The last six months since Council’s July approval of the Chamber’s FY22 work plan, have been a whirlwind. In our capacity as the official destination management organization for greater Sedona, we have been hard at work to address the impacts of the unprecedented increase in visitation to our region in the wake of an ongoing global pandemic.
When I arrived in February of this year, tourism equated to traffic, trash, trailhead congestion and tension among different place consumers. Let’s talk about some work underway to manage these issues.
Traffic: The Verde Shuttle rebranding and expansion of service funded jointly by the Cities of Cottonwood and Sedona to ensure public transit for our in-commuting workforce is an exemplary collaboration. Further, the development of Sedona’s first public transit system slated to begin with five trailhead shuttles to launch in March 2022 is nothing short of miraculous.
Trash and trailhead congestion: Trail Keepers 2.0 is underway, with the City once again contributing $50,000 which is then matched at $1,000 each by fifty local businesses led by the Chamber, with the Sedona Red Rock Trail Fund and USFS. The initial five-year program which concluded in June contributed nearly $400,000 to the Red Rock Ranger District for trail enhancements. Further, trash collection was initiated at Dry Creek trailhead, an urgent temporary measure until the Red Rock Pass program begins next fall to cover the cost. Temporary restrooms we installed at Soldier’s Pass trailhead while the city builds additional parking at Posse Grounds Park along with public restrooms and a connector trail to Soldiers as a more permanent solution.
In September, we co-hosted with the Sedona Lodging Council, a community conversation on short term rentals with the Sedona City Manager, City Attorney, and property management company Sedona.org president and CEO, to educate and inform residents about the challenges STRs pose and the legal limitations that prevent effective regulation.
Tension among place consumers: In October, we announced the Red Rock OHV Conservation Crew, or RROCC, comprised of twelve private rental and tour operator companies, and Tread Lightly!, the national OHV industry group committed to responsible ridership. RROCC is dedicating 1% of gross sales to trail enhancements and rider education and staffing pop-up tents at high use areas during peak times. This is a start, but we need to continue setting expectations to respect and protect this place among the riding public.
Thanks to Keep Sedona Beautiful, the Fly Friendly Voluntary Agreement to reduce helicopter noise in Sedona and the VOC is working. Tour operators are on board, and a process in place with the Sedona Airport. When believed violations occur, people can submit their concerns, which are investigated and addressed. A new helicopter tour operator is coming to Sedona in January and intends to join the initiative.
Finally, on National Hiking Day in November, we launched our deeper partnership with Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, the premiere national advocate for responsible outdoor recreation. The program includes a free communication toolkit available to our 735 member businesses to download to help them share the “7 Principles” of Leave No Trace with their customers.
These initiatives are in their early stages, and as 2022 arrives, we will pursue them with passion and commitment. As a catalyst for business growth, a convener of community leaders and influencers, and a champion for a thriving community, the chamber will stay at the forefront to push for innovative regional solutions. We will also continue to advocate for policies on STRs that align with the tenets of sustainable tourism we all support.
Though much work remains to be done, as we get ready to celebrate the holidays, I am optimistic that we can expect great things to emerge as we move forward together in the new year.
-Candace Carr Strauss,