It’s been my honor to serve as President of Friends of the Forest (FOF) during our 25th Anniversary year. Before becoming involved in the ongoing operations of the organization, I was of course aware of all of the important work the organization is involved in. I wasn’t aware that almost half of Friends members volunteer time each year. This is extraordinary, and differentiates FOF from the vast majority of volunteer organizations

This realization prompted me to wonder why Friends of the Forest has been so successful for so long.

Here on the Coconino National Forest, we appreciate the power of fire. We know that it has the potential to destroy if out of control, but we also know that fire is one way that nature rejuvenates the land. In addition, we understand the pivotal role fire played in the evolution of ancient societies. Harnessed right, fire is power.

I came to think of Friends of the Forest as an amazing controlled burn that has benefited the Red Rock District for the past quarter century.

In 1994, a group of citizens lit that fire. They made certain that the conditions were right, and that they had enough fuel to make it burn bright – talented and dedicated volunteers who were willing to donate their time in the service of a greater good.

Without proper tending by the organization, and by Forest Service staff, the fire could easily have gone out. Instead, the cooperation of all parties coupled with the continuing desire to contribute good work, simply provided more fuel for the fire. They also had a great time in the process, making it a welcoming environment.

So, the fire grew over time, from less than 100 members in the beginning to over 575 today – from about 10,000 hours volunteered in 1999 to some 35,000 hours a year today. The constant infusion of new members means that the fuel supply is in fact increasing. the fire can burn brighter and hotter than ever.

Our recent Membership Meeting and Awards Ceremony highlighted some of the members who contribute the most to our efforts. First, our Committee Chairs had the pleasure of presenting certificates to major contributors in our various activities: air quality testing, cultural resources, graffiti removal, interpretive programs, river patrol, trail maintenance & construction, trail patrol, visitor information services, water sampling, and Wildlife/Fish/Rare Plant Projects.

I then presented awards to members deserving exceptional recognition. I honored Rich Spinelli for consistently giving his time to Friends to of the Forest in a variety of activities over the past 6 years by awarding him the Distinguished Volunteer Award. Ruti Lovitt received the Heart of the Friends award, given to a member who exhibits “Heart” to the Friends of the Forest. The New Volunteer of the Year Award went to Annie Glickstein, and I presented the Volunteer of the Year Award to Bea and Bill Logan. I concluded our awards ceremony by presenting Peggy and Richard Spencer-Coen with the President’s Award, recognizing them for their significant contributions to the Friends’ volunteer work. I noted that Annie, Bea, Bill, Peggy and Richard are all recent additions to the organization, a vivid demonstration that new members’ energy and dedication are key to our continued success.

Sedona Mayor Sandy Moriarty then recognized November 2, 2019 as Friends of the Forest Day, in honor of our exemplary service to the community over the past quarter century. As a long-time resident of Sedona, she recalled the founding of Friends of the Forest and remarked on how valuable the organization is to the community. She expressed the community’s gratitude to all of the fantastic volunteer organizations who contribute so much to the quality of life for residents and visitors.

The ceremony concluded with remarks by Dennis Parker, our second President, who served in 1997 and 1998. As one of the founding members of Friends of the Forest, he recalled the group of about 90 dedicated residents who started with only three committees, Trail Patrol, Trail Maintenance and Construction and Visitor Center Support. At that time, the tiny Visitor Center was tucked away on Brewer road, staffed by only one Forest Service staff and one volunteer.

Dennis and the other founding members of Friends of the Forest lit the fire of volunteerism that still burns brightly in Red Rock Country.

To learn more about Friends of the Forest, and perhaps join our group of active volunteers, we invite you to our next meeting, to be held on Wednesday December 11, at 9 am in the Red Rock Ranger District Administration Building, located off of Hwy 179 a mile south of the Village of Oak Creek.

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