Again this year, (our 25th Anniversary) the Friends of the Forest (FOF) is hosting a member welcoming event at the Red Rock Ranger Station Visitor Center on State Route 179 just south of the Village of Oak Creek. As always, we look forward to seeing not only new and old members, but also anyone interested in learning about our organization.

For those new to the area, The FOF is sponsored by the National Forest Service. Our sole function is to support them in keeping the Coconino National Forest as pristine as possible. We continue to see substantial increases of visitors each year (now over two million per year). We are, as is said, loving our Forest to death! Our role with the Forest also continues to be ever increasing, requiring more volunteer hours. We contribute in this support role by assisting in the maintenance of our more than 300 miles of trails, removing graffiti wherever possible, reducing environmental damage caused by human impact, educating through environmental communication, and enhancing the forest experience for visitors and residents.

We now number over 500 members and last year set a record by contributing over 36,000 volunteer hours, more than any other Forest Service volunteer group in the country. Not only are we extremely active, but the talents within our membership have produced a number of innovative approaches in helping to make us more efficient in accomplishing our mission.

If you enjoy the unique beauty of Sedona and would like to be a part of preserving the Coconino National Forest and Wilderness, Thursday February 7th is the date you should mark on your calendars.

At 2:00 pm in the Visitor Center, several FOF speakers and committee chairpersons will present short summaries of their activities. We think you will be impressed with the broad range of programs offered. Whether you’re an inside person or like to be out on the trails, we have something for you.

New volunteers are always welcome to help in the FOF Core Activities, which include Visitor Information Services – volunteers assisting at the Ranger Station Visitor Center and Cultural Resources docents at Palatki, Honanki, V Bar V, and other heritage sites. These docents help protect and explain the history of these prehistoric features.

Trail Patrol members hike area trails, record information about trail conditions, and like all of our groups, remove trash wherever found. They regularly interact with other hikers, by giving directions, answering questions, and assisting where possible. You can find these dedicated volunteers on just about any trail in the District.

The hardworking men and women on Trail Maintenance and Construction crews are out on a weekly basis. They’re tasked with keeping the trails safe and in good condition. Reworking drainage, removing fallen trees, constructing steps on the steeper slopes, and clearing overgrown brush are just part of their tasks. If you are in reasonably good physical shape and enjoy working outdoors, this is for you.
The Graffiti Removal team has recently expanded its efforts and has developed a number of new techniques to remove scratching and paint with minimal damage to the rock surfaces. It is challenging work and unfortunately very necessary, to remove the damage done by a small percentage of our visitors. We are now experimenting with the use of cameras at our most sensitive sites. This is a new tool for us, so we’ll see how effective it can be.

Public education programs, guided hikes, photo documentation of archaeological sites, River Ranger Support, Water Sampling, and maintenance of a wilderness air quality monitoring station are all important programs in our support role. Some are seasonal efforts.

Citizen Science is another fast-growing category of volunteer interest and participation. Red Rock Ranger District Wildlife Biologist Janie Agyagos is one of several Forest Service specialists who are engaging FOF volunteer citizen scientists in a variety of research activities: locating and documenting ancient agaves, cataloging lichens, monitoring peregrine falcon nests, counting bats exiting their roosts, identifying and inventorying the Arizona Toads and Monarch butterflies, and surveying invasive weeds.

Friends of the Forest is truly a place to contribute almost any skill, or pursue wide-ranging interests. There is something for everyone, inside or outside, work solo or with others, be comfortable with a no-sweat task or burn a lot of calories. Have we missed anything? Please let us know!

To help protect the unique beauty of the area we are privileged to call home, please join us on February 7 at the Red Rock Ranger Visitor Center at 2:00PM to learn more. For RSVP, please respond to

Serving Sedona, written this week by Jerry Piepiora, appears Wednesday in the Sedona Red Rock News.