ARIZONA — On February 7, a class of 18 high school students from Sedona Red Rock High School teamed up with Friends of the Forest volunteers to help the Red Rock Ranger District of the Coconino National Forest clean out an important irrigation canal that is the only source of water for a local community garden.
Set amongst the famous, beautiful and towering backdrop of Sedona’s Cathedral Rock, the canal runs through an equally stunning site—Crescent Moon Ranch—down to a flat field where the locals have carved out a large area to grow everything from garlic, turnips and tomatoes, to lettuce, kale and carrots. Over time, the canal accumulates leaves, mud and muck which starves the garden of much needed water and irrigation. In order for the gravity-fed canal to transport water to the garden, all of the water-blocking debris needs to be removed, which is no easy or quick task.
Students and volunteers put on their gloves, grabbed shovels, rakes and other tools and went to work for several hours cleaning out the canal, cutting back briar bushes, and shoveling thick mud out of the ditch. While the local volunteers benefited from the youthful strength in numbers, the students learned about agriculture, growing seasons, and the importance of the community garden—all while working in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
“Getting youth outside and having them work alongside one of our greatest volunteer organizations such as Friends of the Forest is a win-win,” said Justin Loxley, volunteer coordinator for the Red Rock Ranger District. “The students get to see how important this garden is to the locals, learn from the more experienced volunteers and perhaps take on the torch of volunteerism and help continue the tradition of tending this garden. In turn, the regular volunteers get strength in numbers and an opportunity to pass along their knowledge to an upcoming generation.”
A collection of photos of this youth conservation education project can be found on the Coconino National Forest’s Flickr site.