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With the Slide Fire finally extinguished and Oak Creek Canyon residents back in their homes and businesses, the Sedona area and its economy are in recovery.Managing Editor Christopher Fox Graham

We had printed stories in our newspaper, published updates on our website and posted GoogleEarth maps — nearly 100 in total — on our Sedona Red Rock News Facebook page every day with such regularity that one of our former feature writers quipped: “Coming soon: Google Map of my weekly errands courtesy of Christopher Fox Graham.”

This weekend, my parents were visiting in Sedona. They had followed our coverage of the Slide Fire and I, like them, was curious about how Oak Creek Canyon had fared — my parents’ favorite place to hike in the Sedona area is West Fork, so they were saddened when the Slide Fire reached the area in the first days of the wildfire.

Heading up State Route 89A, traffic was understandably lighter than usual — the Arizona Department of Transportation began road work at the switchbacks as soon as the U.S. Forest Service gave ADOT contractors the go-ahead that the area was safe, preventing tourists and others from entering the canyon at the north end.

As we approached Slide Rock State Park, we saw how the burn area extended all the way to the creek’s western bank. However, as we neared Garland’s Lodge and Junipine Resort, from the road, the canyon appeared mostly untouched.

The campsites and pullouts are currently closed to travelers, but for preventative reasons and not because they had been burned. The bluffs and ridges to the west were burned in large places and small pockets, but for the most part, it was hard to even tell that Coconino County’s largest fire ever had burned through the week before. The entrance to West Fork is still closed but the narrow canyon looked green and untouched.

The businesses in the canyon are again open, so we supported one of the canyon’s restaurants by stopping for burgers. This was literally a mom-and-pop operation: Mom took our order, dad was the cook and our waitress was a young girl carrying our lunch on a tray bigger than she was.

The canyon will be open to tourist traffic shortly once ADOT finishes improvements to the switchbacks. It will take time for word to spread around Arizona that yes, Oak Creek Canyon is open, and yes, it is still a beautiful place to visit, and yes, the road closure is only temporary.

In the meantime, I urge our readers to support these small businesses in this difficult recovery. Had the fire or winds been different, the fire could have consumed structures or even threatened the northern end of Uptown. On Page 12A of today’s edition is a full-page advertisement for these Oak Creek Canyon small businesses. Make plans to patronize them in the next few weeks and support our neighbors. Encourage friends and family elsewhere in Arizona to visit Sedona and take them up the canyon. Every little bit helps.

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