By Tommy Acosta
Sedona AZ (July 1, 2018) – Sedona is a gift that belongs to no single soul. The more that people hear of Sedona the more they will want to come here be to healed, enlightened, saved, inspired excited and thrilled.
What can we really do to stem the flow of those who have heard of our beautiful part of the Universe and hope to experience it as we do?
They are coming. Period! Shroedinger’s Cat is out of the bag, as they say. There is no getting out of the way.
The magic of Sedona is spreading exponentially. We are a fountain of spiritual energy, music and the arts. We are the metaphysical center of the cosmos. Ground Zero, as so many have said before.
We also happen to live in one of the most geographically perfect and beautiful locations on the planet.
People are flocking to Sedona from all walks of life. Some show up in private jets and others hitch hike across the country to get here. For some it is an enlightening spiritual and metaphysical experience. For others it’s the sense of profound beauty and the wonder of the red rock formations.
Visitors come, immerse themselves in the Sedona experience, then go back home feeling warm and fuzzy. A few are sucked into the vortex and become locals. We long-time locals understand perfectly what that means.
There are those that come because they are following a dream or a path and either Sedona embraces them or they wander on. Transient, they stay a while until fate moves them along a new path.
We can’t stop people from wanting to experience the magic we experience every single day. TV ads are focusing on our rock formations. Sedona consciousness is spreading exponentially.
Let’s not forget that Sedona is considered to be a “hot-spot” for UFO activity and paranormal events. True believers cannot continue in their quest for extra-terrestrial contact until they have been on a nighttime tour of the Sedona skies with a professional UFO spotter.
Sedona’s got it all. There is something for everyone. Magic! Mountains! Vortexes! Massage! Clairvoyants! Music! Art! Spas! Great golf! Helicopter tours! Off-road rides! Adventure and great restaurants! Resorts and hotels!
We are magic in the dreams of men. Sedona sparks the spiritual flame. Everybody wants to be here.
People come here searching for answers, a reason to live and hope. Some are seeking beauty and adventure.
Do we have the right to stop them from coming? Some might say yes. Sedona says otherwise.
The lure of Sedona and its reputation will continue to magnify. Traffic, visitors will continue to increase as long as the magic persists and there are no signs of it dissipating anytime soon.
We are going to get visitors. We are going to get traffic. It’s reality. Face it! Trying to ebb the flow of visitors into Sedona now is like trying to stop a Tsunami with a sponge.
So what do we do about it? First and foremost is managing our reactions to the traffic and changing our perspectives a bit so we don’t get so upset. Get to the core of why visitors and congestion bug us. What is it that upsets us so about this “invasion” of wonder-struck unwelcome visitors?
Start with clogging the roads. Every so often, during a couple of months of the year, the ride from Dry Creek Road to Tlaquepaque could take an hour if traffic is really bad. S.R. 179 clogs to a crawl. S.R. 89A slows to a snail’s pace and the traffic lights seem to take longer than ever to change.
And every so often our favorite restaurants are a bit more crowded. Cars parked by trails. Tons of people use them. Yes. Every so often it gets irritating for we locals who in our busy Sedona lives seem to always need to be somewhere just when negative traffic conditions arise.
Sigh. Let’s be grateful for the words “every so often.”
And while we are at it, let’s be grateful that Sedona is supported by a “clean” industry. Tourism does not pollute the air and poison our waters, unlike less fortunate cities whose main industries are based on production and factories that spout pollution into their communities.
We are lucky to have what we have and brief interludes of inconvenience are a lot easier to deal with than a smelting company pouring toxins into Oak Creek.
Mitigation and flow control should be our primary areas of focus. We have to adjust and accommodate.
Our best bet is to let the city fathers continue with their efforts to prepare for the future with their Sedona In Motion Master Plan and find a way to make the Village of Oak Creek, Cottonwood, Jerome and Clarkdale destination points in their own right.
By assisting in the promotion of these other cities as destination points in the Greater Sedona Area we spread out the congestion and hopefully thin out the traffic.
The city should also assign cops or hire people to man the congestion points during exceptionally busy traffic days to keep things moving along.
Further, locals need to utilize Facebook and other social media to keep each other informed as to how traffic is moving and where the congestion is occurring during the day. This way we know when to venture out and what to avoid.
There are times during the heavy traffic days when traffic thins for a while and that’s the time for us to make our rounds if needed. We could also do our shopping during the week rather than weekends when we are hit hard by tourists.
There are those who want to discourage people from coming here as a solution to the traffic problem. What should we do? Paint the red rocks black? Write articles in the Phoenix press about the “horrors” of Sedona traffic? Plant rumors that Sedona is a “police state” that loves to prey on innocent visitors as a way of increasing our tax revenues? Slap a 25 percent increase in price for everything in Sedona applicable only to tourists? Create a blockade and police checkpoints to ID people coming into Sedona and turning anyone that does not live here away?
Afraid not. Aside from not advertising our city in Phoenix there is pretty much nothing we could do to discourage visitors from coming here.
Stuck in traffic? Meditate. Take the time to enjoy the scenery we sometimes take for granted. Use the moment to reflect on how lucky we are to live in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Count your blessings. Breathe and bless those who come here rather than be angry with them. It’s because of our tourists that we have the funds to keep our streets in repair and maintain the functions of this city.
Without tourism we would be a town of shuttered businesses, dying on the vine.
Next time you are stuck in traffic, note the businesses that are still open and thriving and give thanks for the privilege of calling yourself a Sedona local.
Your article is beautifully written with charming sentiment. I agree with most of what you say.
However when you said “We are going to get visitors. We are going to get traffic. It’s reality. Face it! Trying to ebb the flow of visitors into Sedona now is like trying to stop a Tsunami with a sponge.
So what do we do about it? First and foremost is managing our reactions to the traffic and changing our perspectives a bit so we don’t get so upset. Get to the core of why visitors and congestion bug us. What is it that upsets us so about this “invasion” of wonder-struck unwelcome visitors?”
What upsets us is that the Sedona Chamber of Commerce, acting under a no bid contract continues to advertise when we already have a “tsunami” of traffic. A recent study paid for by the city of Sedona confirms over 50% of the traffic entering Sedona does not stop. There is a quaint old saying ” When you are in a hole, stop digging. ”
When you say “And while we are at it, let’s be grateful that Sedona is supported by a “clean” industry. Tourism does not pollute the air and poison our waters, unlike less fortunate cities whose main industries are based on production and factories that spout pollution into their communities.” You seem to ignore the treated waste water injection wells. While the waste water is “treated” is has been proven that numerous pharmaceuticals and cancer treatment excretions are not removed. I think that is a crime. I think those that passed that rule should be made to drink and bathe in that “treated” waste water. You forget the impact of trash on our trails and pollution from miles of cars idling on our highways. The closure of Oak Creek due to man made pollution. The eroded trails from too much tourist love.
When you say ” let the city fathers continue with their efforts”, you imply they are wise fathers. Not fathers who allow “no bid” contracts, operate the Sedona Wine Fest like our current Mayor and then accept grants of $8000 in city funds for their own event. To many I have told about that , it seems less like a “wise father” and more like a crook.
I want tourism for Sedona, I want our visitors to have a wonderful, spiritual experience. It’s hard to meditate in bumper to bumper traffic. Those stuck behind you get upset when your eyes are closed and you ignore the traffic that moved ahead of you.
You say “It’s because of our tourists that we have the funds to keep our streets in repair .” Both 89A and 179 are state maintained highways. Of the over 100 miles of City maintained streets, they currently pave 1-2 miles a year. By the time they complete the paving cycle the streets will have turned to gravel.
Tommy, let us take the greater part of your message and return to peace and spirituality in Sedona. Let us revolt against the greed, waste and pollution.
Mr. Acosta, I applaud your intentions and love of Sedona. I love Sedona too. However, there is little in way of evidence our ‘city fathers’ have spent wisely in the past. And when I say wisely, I mean spending that directly improves the quality of life for residents, not just for the benefit of tourists and businesses. Tony Tonsich makes a good point. $8 million has gone to the chamber of commerce in the past 5 years, under a no bid contract. Also, with no financial audits, and even worse, no metric for measuring the effectiveness of monies spent. That by any measure is very poor financial stewardship. Can we believe the ‘city fathers’ will be much better in the future? That’s quite a leap of faith. I do believe the traffic issue can be solved. Will the proposed $30 million plus spending on the Sedona in Motion plan be the answer? Maybe, maybe not. A lot of intelligent people disagree on how effective the plan will be.
A friend said the other day,
“when you look around the community and see amenities like a performing arts venue, and an open-air amphitheater, and skate and bike skills parks, a splash pad for kids, art pieces in our roundabouts, and all the aesthetic treatments everywhere you look, these are things most small towns our size cannot afford.” We have been able to provide these “nice to haves” rather than just the “have to haves,” primarily due to the robust tourist economy and year over year growth in bed and sales tax revenues. Those amenities and many others we enjoy in Sedona may not otherwise be realities. We have outsider “UTBIP”, that think this all to much…….. every day we should say thank you to every visitor for paying for all this. Sedona will grow, we need to think ahead not keep staring in the rear view Mirror.
1. Strange that you say tourism doesn’t pollute the environment, and post a picture of a stalled line of traffic with engines running.
What do you think that does to the air quality in the area?
2. Why are we still courting tourists with OUR tax dollars (that most residents really don’t want anymore)? If we’re overwhelmed can’t we just back off a bit?
Mr. Segner, while it’s clear how a robust tourist economy benefits hotel owners like yourself, it’s much less clear how it benefits ordinary residents. If your notion of progress is more and more tourists, I think a lot of voters in the upcoming election will disagree with you, I suppose we shall see. The city council and chamber have done an abysmal job of explaining why all the tourism is so wonderful for residents. In exchange, do we get more parks? more arts and culture programs? full funding for the library and humane society? more beautification projects? Or do we get a bigger city bureaucracy, which grown leaps and bounds faster than the general population, or a bigger city budget which also grown much faster than the resident demographics can justify? I would argue that the City of Cottonwood provides just as much in the way of resident amenities, on a much smaller budget and not nearly as many tourists. Flagstaff collects $8 million a year from their bed tax. However, they have the wisdom to spend 65% of that money on direct resident benefits.
As evidence of how differently Flagstaff spends their bed tax, here is a report recently prepared for the Flagstaff city council. It details exactly where all of the close to $8 million in FY2017 was spent. Close to 65% was spent on things like park funding and improvement, beautification, trails, and grants to community groups. This is SO DIFFERENT from how Sedona spends it’s bed tax. My hat goes off to Flagstaff for putting the residents first.
Spare me the New Age nonsense. Sedona has been over exploited by business interests without proper oversight by city and county governments as well as the National Forest Service. The “mystical” Sedona has long since been replaced by the mechanical Sedona. The soundtrack of Sedona is the noise of airplanes, helicopters, ATVs, Jeeps, and commercial trucks. The trails are littered with dog waste and dead and dying vegetation as mountain bikers continue to widen the trail paths. The Red Rock ecosphere is a relatively tiny area and cannot support the enormous tourist demand without continuing decline in the quality of life for residents and the surrounding environment. No easy options exist. At the very least, we need proactive and practical city government that is responsive to the interests of its residents.
I am one of the few who received the survey from the Center for Sustainable Tourism. I could not fathom what sustainable tourism is or might be. So I wrote to Christine Vogt, Director, Center for Sustainable Tourism at ASU.
She replied. I quote in part, “If developers and managers continue to want more tourists, any place will be degraded environmentally and socially”.
That certainly reflects what we see in Sedona today. Extreme traffic, no parking at the trailheads and favorite restaurants besieged by tourists.
I’ve worked on surveys in the past and the client will always get the data they need to justify their position. A couple of weeks ago, in my living room, a group gathered with the primary focus being how to nudge survey respondents to a desired outcome.
Beware the results of this survey. There is enough data and ambiguity therein that one can draw the conclusions supportive of one’s agenda.
Well written, Tommy. Thanks for reminding me to leave 10 minutes earlier for appointments.
I’ve never seen a bigger bunch whining NIMBY’s clogged into one place in my entire life. As a hard core Conservative I have nothing in common with “Tommy the Tree Hugger” but as much as I hate to admit it, he is spot on in his assertion that there is nothing we could do to stop the flood. All everyone is doing is complaining like frogs whose ponds are being drained. Only bold action can save the day here. And I don’t mean cowering with our tails between our legs by giving the state our right to rule our city’s budget. God. Those anti-home rule guys are cutting off their own noses to spite someone else’s face. Dummies. I’ll never vote for anyone that stupid as to go against Home Rule. Sedona, immediately, should slap a 25 percent tax on everything sold in this town. Locals would be given cards allowing them 25 percent off on everything they buy. The raise in taxes will discourage the riffraff from coming here and lure those who can afford it. People with money need to be in places where they can spend it. Tolls would be too conspicuous if not outright illegal although it’s a good idea.
Ron said:Extreme traffic, no parking at the trailheads and favorite restaurants besieged by tourists. so Ron you think 80 + restaurants were built for locals? . Ron you should have done your home work before you moved to Sedona it is and always was a tourist town. You want all the benefits with out the visitors, and visitors pay for the town up keep. Towns grow, traffic grows, people have kids, that is life.
I would suggest it is you who should have done your homework many years ago when taking basic English classes in reading, comprehension, and writing. Maybe you skipped those.
You also should know that, as a Board Member of the Sedona Historical Society and a resident on the Thompson property, Sedona was not always “a tourist town”. It was a ranching town, an agrarian community, a movie set, a retirement community all before becoming a tourist City.
The point of my post (again reading comprehension)was to warn folks to be skeptical of the recent ASU survey on sustainable tourism. The data collected can be manipulated in any manner to present a predetermined outcome.
I repeat what the Director of the sustainable tourism center said. “If developers and managers continue to want more tourists, any place will be degraded environmentally and socially.”
Sedona over the past few years fits that mold to perfection witness the following: Environmental and Social degradation; Traffic is our destiny espoused by City Hall; unprecedented levels of spending to attract more tourists; and planned SIM actions that will further destroy the neighborhoods of Sedona.
Paul Boyce says:
July 2, 2018 at 11:14 amI would argue that the City of Cottonwood provides just as much in the way of resident amenities, on a much smaller budget and not nearly as many tourists. and you would be WRONG>
$88,545,340 cottonwood this year
The Sedona total budget is $47,752,118. The budget is balanced between expenditures, revenues and one-time available fund balances above the policy operating reserve levels.
Capital improvement expenditures represent $14.1 million or 30 percent of the total proposed budget so you are wrong , is much lowers the cottonwood, and cottonwood has a .5% sales tax on food….
Sedona budget is up only because now $14,000,000 is going to be used for road improvements and other capitol projects…. and the money for all this comes not for residents but visitors… 70%+ you should thank our lucky stars for them.
Please before you post look up the numbers….
PaulI I don’t have time to hold you hand and do your home work, so you go back 10 years and post the sedona city budget and show us all I am wrong….all T party crap
WHOA, Steve Segner. Residents deserve better than a non-inclusive City government.
According to the CITY OF SEDONA COMMUNITY REPORT 2017: “FY 2017 city revenues generated by sales & bed taxes . . . .57%, two thirds of which is paid by visitors.” I.e., 38% of sales & bed tax revenues were collected from visitors in FY 2017, Stevie.
The $47,752,118 budget for FY 2017 was “balanced between expenditures, revenues, use of available fund balances set aside for capital projects, use of restricted grants and donations balances…and the reduction of a portion of fund balances exceeding policy reserve requirements,” including $2,670K in WW Fund reserves.The fund balance decreased by approximately $5 million during FY 2017. In addition, there’s no maintenance of strong reserves to ensure long-term financial stability.
FY 2009-2010 Annual Budget, $44, 922,517
FY 2010-2011 Annual Budget, $30,706,080
FY 2011-2012 Annual Budget, $34,335,463
FY 2012-2013 Annual Budget, $36,469,809
FY 2013-2014 Annual Budget, $36,145,299
FY 2014-2015 Annual Budget, $38,385,154
FY 2015-2016 Annual Budget, $52,817,475 (Includes a $9.3M wash entry)
FY 2016-2017 Annual Budget, $38,360,866
FY 2017-2018 Annual Budget, $47,752,118 (sales tax increase: 1/2%, 3-1-18;
actual revenues, $39,820,275)
FY 2018-2019 Annual Budget, $47,455,463