On a crisp November day, a cadre of Red Rock Ranger District personnel served up a tasty Dutch oven meal to an eager gathering of men and women. The occasion was the annual Volunteer Appreciation Picnic hosted by District Ranger Amy Tinderholt and more than a dozen Forest Service employees who work closely with volunteers across the District.

Tinderholt announced the tally of volunteer hours accumulated during the Federal fiscal year ending September 30, 2022. A variety of organizations and individuals provided 53,000 hours of service to the 550,000-acre Red Rock District over the year, supporting the needs of national forest resources and recreators.

“These volunteers provided a work contribution equivalent to that of twenty-five full time employees. More importantly, the wealth of skills, energy and talent among our volunteers is unmatched in the National Forest network,” said Tinderholt.

Over 30,000 of these volunteer hours were contributed by members of the Friends of the Forest (FOF). Following a couple of slower years, the organization is edging toward its highest volunteer hours total of 36,000 contributed during fiscal year 2018 – a year which was not impacted by wildfire-related forest closure, government shut down or pandemic.

In fiscal 2022, Trail Patrollers, including the new Trailhead Ambassador project, accounted for 11,200 or 37% of FOF hours. Cultural Resources volunteers, comprised of heritage site docents and archaeology photo documentation participants, logged 7,000 or 23% of volunteer hours.

Appreciation Day was also the occasion of the Friends of the Forest annual membership meeting, a time for recognition of the contributions of many members. Friends President Annie Glickstein presided over the Friends special service awards. These awards have been an organization tradition since FOF founding in 1994. Each year a nominating committee identifies award candidates.

Cynthia Belowski received the New Volunteer of the Year Award for jumping in with both feet during unprecedented times with many hours of service across a variety of activities.

The overall Volunteer of the Year Award went to Pat Quinn, who contributed over 600 hours in support of a wide array of projects.

The Heart of the Friends Award is intended to acknowledge a passion for making a difference through Friends of the Forest pursuits. Dale Evans received this recognition.

Rhett Atkinson was recognized with the Distinguished Volunteer Award, in appreciation for more than ten years of continuous service.

The President’s Award is of special significance to the Friends organization. The award acknowledges a volunteer who has made outstanding contribution in ways which advance the objectives of the organization, both internally with volunteers and leaders, and in the broader community. Melissa Pontikes received the President’s Award.

A Special Project Award went to Jean Ober, editor of the organization’s “Branching Out” Newsletter and a Special Recognition Award was received by Joe Pokorski, Friends of the Forest Treasurer.

Approximately half of the 650 Friends of the Forest members actively volunteer their time and skills to the wide array of activities which support the Red Rock Ranger District. The leaders of the key FOF activity areas, or committees, recognized individual participants for strong contributions to their activities in 2022 as follows.

River Ranger Support: Mike Vitek, Frank Wirkus, Dave Kennedy, Les Heffner, Warren Holm, Bob Beltz.

Plants Wildlife/Fish/Rare Projects: Diane Greathouse, Consuelo Marshall, Sharon Evans, Rob Gibbs, Alan Glickstein.

Trail Patrol: David and Marjorie Terrell, Mike and Jean Ober, Bob and Catherine Powers, Bob and Bernadette Marriott.

Cultural Resource Docents: Cynthia and Peter Belowski, Bob Beltz, Warren Holm, Bea Logan, John Losse, Wayne Swart.

Air/Water Quality Monitoring: Sally Gebler, Brian Painchaud, Luisa Galindo, Pat Quinn, Jerry Checchia, Jessica Baldischwiler, Chuck Armstrong.

Interpretive and Educational Programs: Bob Beltz, Kevin Harding, Barry Mallis.

Cultural Resource Photo Documentation: Jon Petrescu, Ed Hodges, David Irvine, Rob Elliot.

Visitor Information Services: Rhett Atkinson, Stephanie Klatt, Harry Strong.

Graffiti Removal: Christine Nuez, Jerry Piepiora Pat Quinn, David and Margie Terrell, Mike and Jean Ober, Bob Haizman, Beatrice Hanks, Adrienne Pichette.

Trail Maintenance and Construction: Ernie DiMillo, Rod Cashin, Kurt Starbuck, Pat Quinn, Jerry Checchia Rich Spinelli, Sam Serrill, Wayne Schwetje, Jeff Maust, Bill Logan, Tim Fogarty, Bob Wych, Jim White, Bob Bare, Ken Stanko, Tana Bourdage-Allman, Clay Dunsmore, Jim Manning.

Last but not least, thirteen volunteers were acknowledged for contributing 500 or more hours of service to the District during the year.

To the many National Forest recreators and visitors who practice “Leave No Trace” stewardship, a hearty appreciation goes out from the many dedicated volunteers serving our public lands.

Serving Sedona, written this week by Jennifer Young of Friends of the Forest, appears Wednesday in the Sedona Red Rock News.