8/22/2014 10:58:00 AM Road less traveled now an All-American Road
The Village's All-American Road in its earliest years. Photos by D. Benore
The Village's All-American Road today. Photo by D. Benore
Loretta Benore In Days of Yore
The Village and the City came together in a joint effort to keep the charm and beauty of Red Rock Country intact in spite of the State trying to shove "progress" down our throats. This is a history of days of yore not so long ago.
The first road accessed by homesteaders through Big Park was a dirt road that wound its way through Grasshopper Flat (now West Sedona) through Red Rock (the old Henry Schuerman homestead) across Oak Creek to Little Park (now Verde Valley School Road), then south on what eventually became SR179.
This road, like the road through Oak Creek Canyon and Schnebly Hill Road, was the result of efforts by the citizens who lived along the way (See Photo old 179). Grass roots toil and travail succeeded when government was not involved.
It wasn't until after 1900 that a dirt road was created to connect Big Park with the hamlet of Sedona. (Remember, T.C. Schnebly didn't get the federal OK to name the post office Sedona until 1904.) Over the decades the road was improved with gravel, but it was not until 1948 that actual paving was begun.
It was done in three sections finally completed in December 1961. There was a big official celebration to open "Access Road 179" from Sedona to the Black Canyon Highway. However, I-17 was not officially completed as an Interstate until 1976.
By 1987, SR179 was a well established connector between I-17 through the Village of Oak Creek to the town of Sedona. And, in fact, it had been designated by the state as the "Red Rock Scenic Road." It became heavily used by tourists who were intrigued by the mystical enticement of Sedona. It was also in need of repair and maintenance.
In 1992, ADOT (Arizona Department of Transportation) looked at the situation and decided that a divided 4-5 lane highway from I-17 to Sedona was the answer. Whoa! Cooler heads among the citizenry of the Village and of Sedona protested, and in 2000 the Sedona City Council made an official protest to the state regarding ADOT's decision.
Another chance for a grass roots effort to get done what the people wanted, not what the bureaucrats wanted. The landscape between the Village and Sedona is strikingly beautiful. Did it make sense to rush traffic through it at highway speeds?
The local media supported ADOT's plan, but the people did not. They spoke out, they organized, and "Voice of Choice" was born. Beginning in 2000, 27 men and women served on its board of directors, attending weekly meetings for four years. It was a motley crew that gave of its time, talent -- and treasure.
V.O.C. reached out to the general population for moral and financial support, and it worked. Expert professionals were hired who disputed ADOT's findings.
V.O.C. reached up all the way to the governor, and found support from Janet Napolitano (it helps when it's an election year). ADOT backed down and began to work with the people.
The process that was instituted included "charrettes," information sessions that all concerned citizens could understand. And those concerned citizens were legion. Options for the road were presented and voted upon. We are currently driving on the winning option.
At the beginning of the process one of the V.O.C. board members researched and presented a "white paper" on round-abouts to ADOT, hoping one or two would be built in the Village. ADOT and the people fell in love with round-abouts!
You see the result. Another committee formed to work on getting the road named an "All American Road," which would open the door for grants to finance "goodies" (median landscaping, street lights, benches, trash containers) not covered in the road building.
The grass roots movement kept on going. An adjunct committee initiated a special Special Improvement District to fund a continuing maintenance district-an agreement to tax themselves-and it succeeded. Citizens in control!
ADOT did all right, too. It won an international award for the process that was born right here. And everyone was a happy camper.