Western Gateway



March 6, 2020

corie spruill wheeilieIt is a pleasure to welcome the Mountain Bike Festival back to Sedona this weekend. The joy, athleticism and chill vibe of the event are perfectly exemplified by this morning’s Day One schedule – a mountain bike repair booth and yoga session at Posse Grounds Park.

The more you look at the Festival, the more there is to like. It starts with a $6.5 economic punch delivered during our winter need time. In a win for sustainable tourism, 3,360 of 4,000 participants last year stayed two nights or longer. Longer stays reduce crowding without adverse economic impact.

A little more behind the scenes, riders are helping carry the message about Sedona’s sustainability commitment far and wide. Those us who know Mike Raney of Over the Edge Sports were not surprised when he received a Keep Sedona Beautiful Excellence Award last month. Mike is a leading coordinator of the Festival, bringing riders and sponsors together to educate on responsible trail riding. At the same time, participants raise tens of thousands of dollars for trail maintenance and construction. This year, a raffle will benefit the Sedona Red Rock Trail Fund, and proceeds from the beer garden will go to the Verde Valley Cyclists Coalition, two of our most active trail system supporters.

You will also see Festival riders on the redeveloped Western Gateway Trail system, now nearly complete a year ahead of schedule. An ambitious reimagining of the entire West Sedona trail system from the Girdner Trailhead north of Yavapai College, 28 of the planned 29 trail miles are now open.

After years of planning construction got underway in 2018, with virtually the entire cost absorbed locally. The Sedona Red Rock Trail Fund raised more than $262,000 beginning in September 2018, the largest contributors being the Verde Valley Cyclists Coalition ($77,000), followed by the Sedona Chamber, the Enchantment Resort and the National Forest Foundation. Hundreds of individuals also contributed.

Last week, workers from Flagstaff-based American Conservation Experience – an organization of environmental restoration volunteers – finished 4 months of trail improvement work. Total value of the volunteer time is estimated at more than $49,000.

Backed by this incredible community support, the new trails and 11 miles of improved user-made trails now offer a winding tour of Dry Creek and hilly desert that was part of the old Girdner Ranch. The project also sealed off miles of user-made shortcuts to be reclaimed by the natural environment.

But the work is not yet complete. The Forest Service plans to reconstruct Girdner Trailhead west of the current location and north of the Cultural Park. The site could be as large as 5 acres including 60 parking spaces, an information kiosk and room for unloading horses and staging trail-based events.

A planned system replacing the haphazard user made trails that damage the landscape is another win for Sedona and sustainability. A redeveloped Western Gateway is also a new alternative to help reduce crowding at the busiest trails, a tactic supported by the Ranger District and the Sustainable Tourism Plan.

As you enjoy the Festival this weekend and hear about fundraising for completion of Western Gateway, remember both are tied to Sedona’s quest for balancing our quality of life, economy, environment and the experience we offer our visitors.

See you on the trails!

                                                          –Jennifer Wesselhoff, President/CEO