On a beautiful fall afternoon nature lovers gathered along Oak Creek to celebrate one of Sedona’s natural gems.

A warm fall breeze blew through the trees lining the creek, rattling the colorful leaves and reminding us of the wonders of the world around us and the importance of preserving it.

The Benefactors of Red Rock State Park gathered at the home of Linda Goldenstein and Bill Lacy on Sunday, Nov. 7, to celebrate progress made and encourage more effort to keep Red Rock State Park open despite drastic state budget cuts.

When the state announced last year it would close parks due to lack of funding the Benefactors rose to the challenge, raising more than $70,000 to keep the park open.

Thanks to their efforts visitors continue to enjoy strolls along the park’s trails, meditative moments along Oak Creek and educational programs broadening their knowledge of the Earth and the processes responsible for shaping it.

Nature is a gift to all of us and recreation is a right those of us who live around here understand and cherish.

Others, however, don’t have the courage to embrace the freedom of the outdoors, and Red Rock State Park plays a major role in helping those individuals take the first leap.

The park offers a safe place for residents or visitors uncertain of their outdoor skills to enjoy nature and Sedona’s beauty.

Children also benefit from the park’s ability to teach appreciation for nature and an understanding of how it all works.

Without the park, someone anxious to enjoy a hiking trail while on vacation may never hear the birds sing, watch the lizards jet about or encounter the beauty of Oak Creek.

Without the park, Sedona and Verde Valley students may not experience first-rate environmental education and learn to love and protect nature.

Without the park, thousands of tourists each year may not be encouraged to spend a little more time in Sedona.