Sedona’s Friends of the Forest (FOF) will be hosting a welcome event on Thursday September 22 starting at 2:00 pm at 360 Brewer Road in Sedona. We invite everyone to attend, particularly new residents who are looking for rewarding volunteer opportunities. If you enjoy the unique beauty of Sedona and would like to contribute to preserving the Red Rock District, mark September 22 on your calendar.

At this event, we’ll introduce you to our organization and the activities you can participate in. You’ll hear from our District Ranger about the value we bring to the Forest Service, see a short video on what we do, get the perspective of members on why they value the work they do, and learn about the perks of membership. You’ll 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.

For those new to the area, the mission of Friends of the Forest is to support the Red Rock District of the Coconino National Forest. We help fill the gap between the many needs of the district and its limited resources. We supply person-power and financing for tasks and projects that the Forest Service would otherwise not be able to complete.

Our all-volunteer non-profit organization now has over 650 members who contribute more volunteer hours per year than any other Forest Service volunteer group in the country. The continued growth of Friends of the Forest reflects a strong, constantly renewing organization able to make significant contributions to the community.

We fill our 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 outdoor experience for visitors and residents. Friends of the Forest provides volunteers with diverse possibilities for interactions and future friendships.

New volunteers are always needed at the Red Rock District Visitor Center where we provide information: how to recreate responsibly and safely, where to hike or bike or drive, and how to avoid crowds by visiting less congested trails. We stress the importance of Leave No Trace and respecting the land.

Our docents at the Palatki, Honanki and V-Bar-V heritage sites explain the history of these unique sites and make sure they’re protected. Our photo documentation team records the priceless Native American heritage throughout the Red Rock District.

Trail Patrol members regularly hike area trails, record information about trail conditions, and like all of our groups, remove trash wherever found. Whether hiking singly or in groups, they interact with other hikers, giving directions, answering questions, assisting when needed and reinforcing the Leave No Trace ethic.

The women and men of our Trail Maintenance and Construction crew are tasked with keeping trails safe and in good condition. They repair trail damage, remove fallen trees, construct steps on the steeper slopes, and eliminate damaging social trails. If you enjoy working outdoors, this crew is made for you.

The FOF Graffiti Removal team has received national recognition for their innovative techniques for removing this blight on our landscape. Without their relentless work, Red Rock Country would soon be “Painted Rock Country.” It’s hard work, but the satisfaction of hiking a trail and knowing you helped keep it clear of graffiti is incredibly rewarding.

We also organize public education programs and guided hikes, provide support for the River Ranger who monitor the health of the Verde River, conduct water sampling along Oak Creek and Fossil Creek, and maintain a wilderness air quality monitoring station.

Finally, FOF citizen scientists support 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, surveying invasive weeds and more. These critical studies could not happen without volunteer citizen scientists.

Friends of the Forest is a place where you can contribute to our community and make a real difference. There is something for everyone: inside or out, alone or with others, easy or strenuous.

To help protect and preserve the beauty of Red Rock Country, please join us on Thursday September 22 at the KSB building, 360 Brewer Road at 2:00 pm. This venue was chosen to accommodate more attendees than a Red Rock Ranger District location can provide. Our Committee Chairs will be there to answer any questions you may have.

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