Here’s a sentence I never thought I would actually write: The Barbara Antonsen Memorial Park is officially open.
For those new to Sedona, the Barbara Antonsen Memorial Park has been in the works for 16 years, when the then-Sedona City Council first approved plans for an open-air amphitheater at Posse Grounds Park. Even the Golden Gate Bridge took less time to build.
Antonsen fought to save the Posse Grounds from development in the 1990s and wanted the area turned into a community park. The community members and her friends who helped her in that struggle wanted to dedicate a park in her honor.
After Antonsen died in 2002, they stepped up their efforts to get the park built and tirelessly worked on the project. With each successive City Council over the last 16 years, park supporters made their pitch, presented design ideas, worked on funding sources and heard promises from local elected officials that the park would be built.
Park supporters saw 31 Sedona City Council members and seven mayors come and go, but with the park now built, they can finally rest in the shadow of the amphitheater and listen to the music, poetry and live entertainment from the stage honoring Antonsen for her community service. Now that the Antonsen park is complete, residents will inevitably turn their eyes toward the defunct Sedona Cultural Park on the western edge of town.
I moved to Sedona shortly after the final half-season, so I never saw a concert at the venue, but I did attend several Sedona Red Rock High School graduation ceremonies held at the amphitheater. Like many Sedona residents, I have visited the defunct site in the years since, standing on the stage, staring at the stars and once, holding an impromptu performance with about a dozen other slam poets.
But the park has been in limbo for over a decade and whatever it becomes, the current amphitheater will likely be removed. The cultural park was a great venue, but simply too large to be sustainable in a town the size of Sedona without a skilled management team that could handle the type of performers the venue was built for and successfully and consistently draw audiences from Phoenix, Flagstaff and Prescott to make the space profitable and financially sustainable.
The Barbara Antonsen Memorial Park will be successful for all the reasons the cultural park wasn’t: It’s smaller, though perfect for a city Sedona’s size, centrally located at an already-popular public space and owned and maintained by the city.
In an April 2013 editorial, I wrote, “Expect to finally see the park in 2020. If it happens any sooner, then we can commend the city for getting it done early.”
True to my word, I would like to commend the city for getting it done early. The community offers thanks to city staff, engineers, contractors and Sedona City Council for building a venue available to all in the heart of our largest public park. And of course, we most sincerely commend the friends of Barbara Antonsen and those who never met her but worked hard in her memory to build our newest public venue.
As an editor, in the months and years hence, I will love seeing the sentence in press releases from community groups: “… will be held at the Posse Ground Pavilion at Barbara Antonsen Memorial Park ….”
Make it your mission, dear readers, to attend at least one event at the venue this year and see what took 16 years to accomplish, thanks to the tireless work of a handful of residents who never gave up hope.