Can you imagine the honor of having a Forest Service trail named after you? That’s what will happen to Cottonwood residents Gene and Darl Rector in January when the Rector Trail (“The Rector Connector”) will be built. It will replace a series of social trails between Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte.

In announcing the trail, Adam Barnett, Recreation Officer for the Red Rock Ranger District, noted that “it is a very unusual situation to be able to name something that will last forever for somebody who has made a lifetime contribution to the Red Rock District and the trails here.”

Responding to this extraordinary honor, Friends of the Forest volunteers Gene and Darl Rector remarked that “having a trail named in our honor is over the moon! We know that many people will enjoy having that trail as part of the system… We think that we have had the best retirement that anyone could have here in the Verde Valley working on trails, keeping fit and meeting an unbelievable array of helpers.”

Construction of the new trail, and restoration of the surrounding social trails, will begin on Saturday January 13 at 8:30 am, with volunteers meeting at the Bell Rock Vista Trailhead off of SR 179 just north of the Village of Oak Creek. If you want to help create this new trail, be sure to bring work gloves, water, and snacks. Wear boots, long pants and a long sleeve shirt, and bring a bike helmet or hard hat if you have one. It will be a great opportunity to meet people and contribute to our community.

Following the work, there will a brief dedication ceremony, starting at approximately 1:00 pm, with a lunch for volunteers to follow. This day of work is sponsored by the Forest Service and supported by the Friends of the Forest, the Sedona Red Rock Trail Fund, and a grant from the Yavapai County Resource Advisory Council.

Gene grew up on a California cattle ranch, and Darl’s father ran the Cecil Pack Train in Sequoia National Forest where she helped with the mules and cooked for the visitors who came to hunt and fish. When Gene was 19, he needed a job. As he puts it, “I went to get a job working for Darl’s father and she came with it.” Love of the outdoors runs deep in both of them. Their love of Sedona was set when they honeymooned here in 1959.

Gene and Darl have been keeping our trails cleared and maintained since 1996 when the volunteer coordinator at the time asked them if they would start working on clearing the wilderness trails in Secret Canyon. They’ve been working ever since, often in wilderness areas.

They created the “Hotshots”, a core of Friends of the Forest (FOF) trail maintenance volunteers dedicated to tackling the most difficult problems. As one FOF volunteer stated, “Gene taught me more than anyone about working on the trails. He was always concerned about safety and when I was with Gene I knew we would be OK.”

Over the years, FOF has presented the Rectors numerous awards for their incredible service. But the greatest reward for all of their hard work has been the work itself. As Gene has said, “Going to work in the woods is like entering a cathedral. It is full of peace and quiet and is therapeutic for me.”

FOF volunteers assist the Forest Service maintain some 300 miles of trails in the Sedona Area. We maintain existing trails, construct new ones, and complete special projects like installing the new kiosks you may have seen at many of our trailheads. In fiscal year 2017, our trail maintenance volunteers contributed 4,275 hours of labor.

The nature of the land, and in particular the impact of the monsoon rains means that our trails need regular attention or they will quickly deteriorate. While some of the work is hard, there are tasks for all levels. Ernie DiMillo, chair of the Trail Maintenance Committee notes, “you work to your ability.”

Work days are typically Fridays, starting in the morning, using tools supplied by FOF. Work locations vary, depending on where the Forest Service determines that trails need attention. While volunteers with Friends of the Forest are covered by Forest Service insurance when they are working, in fiscal year 2017 there were no injuries reported by any volunteer group doing any activity, a record the Forest Service is very proud of.

If you are interested in helping keep our trails maintained, please visit our web site at where you can learn more about our activities and contact us to become a member and a volunteer.

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