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Greater Sedona students will have the opportunity to re-connect with the area’s roots this school year.
By Chelsea DeWeese
Larson Newspapers
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Greater Sedona students will have the opportunity to re-connect with the area’s roots this school year when they help to refurbish a now defunct apple orchard located near Red Rock Crossing south of Sedona.

The apple orchard, part of the historic Crescent Moon Ranch, is approximately 1 acre in size and dates back nearly 100 years.

It’s one of numerous orchards homesteaders created along Oak Creek for irrigation purposes in the early- to mid-1900’s. Many of these orchards, including Crescent Moon Ranch, are now owned by the U.S. Forest Service.

According to restoration Project Organizer Jennifer Taron, students will replace existing fences on the Crescent Moon Ranch, cut up old apple trees into firewood lengths and re-plant the orchard.

In the process, students will learn how to operate existing irrigation systems and incorporate soil composting and landscape planning, Taron said.

The project was given a final bureaucratic go-ahead Thursday, Oct. 19, when Sedona-Oak Creek Governing Board members unanimously approved the district’s participation in the process during a board meeting held in the Village of Oak Creek.

The Crescent Moon Ranch project has been a bit long in coming, partly due to recent wildfires and a turnover in the Coconino National Forest Red Rock District’s head district ranger position, Taron said.

Longtime district ranger Ken Anderson retired earlier this year and his replacement, Heather Provencio, was appointed in July.

Since the project is located on Forest Service property, it had to first gain Forest Service approval.

Now that the Crescent Moon Ranch refurbishment is approved by the U.S. Forest Service and the SOCSD, clearing of the land is already underway.

Heading the project is the Sedona-based beautification group Gardens for Humanity, which was recently granted an $8,500 grant from the Greater Sedona Community Foundation for the project. Home Depot in Cottonwood also donated $500 worth of materials.

Gardens for Humanity, consisting of myriad Greater Sedona volunteers, has gained recognition for such projects as the Sedona Schnebly Memorial Garden located in Uptown and “The Labyrinth” at the luxury resort The Lodge at Sedona.

Also, Gardens for Humanity worked in conjunction with local youths to create a mural and garden at West Sedona School and a ground-level mosaic and flower garden at Big Park Community School.

Like those projects, Crescent Moon Ranch is intended to be educational in nature, Taron said.

In addition to physical labor, a districtwide curriculum will be developed regarding orchard cultivation and maintenance. Older students will teach methods to younger students.

Geoff Worssam, art teacher for Sedona Red Rock High School, said the high school’s Interact Club will be heavily involved in the project.

The Interact Club, which is sponsored by the Rotary Club of Sedona, is a high school community service organization.

Worssam said Interact Club members would re-plant portions of the orchard by using a technique called “grafting,” where a section of a stem with leaf buds is inserted into the stock of a tree.

This will allow for preservation of some of the historic apple tree varieties in the area, he said.

Also, Worssam said, smaller root stalks would be used so the apple trees would grow smaller in height [only 60 percent or so of their full height] and be more accessible to younger students.

The Crescent Moon Ranch project also includes the development of a community food garden, with plants such as common vegetables, and some type of artistic component to beautify the area, Worssam said.

Other projects that the Interact Club have worked on are a serenity garden and herb and flower beds on the Sedona Red Rock High School Campus, he said.

Worssam said the Crescent Moon Ranch project allows students to create something that benefits the Greater Sedona community at large.

“That’s the idea behind restoring the historic apple orchard,” he said. “That and instilling a general love of gardening and Earth in students.

“That’s part of Arizona’s history is that whole plant growing that took place in some of these canyons,” he said.

For more information on Gardens for Humanity, call 1-800-878-7387 or visit www.GardensforHumanity.org.

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