The former site of the Sedona Cultural Park has sat overgrown and empty for more than a decade — its fate still pending. With no apparent plans to restore the area, one teen from Huntington Beach, Calif., hopes to do something about it.
Eighth-grader Riley Hilbert has been visiting Sedona with her family since she was a newborn. Every year, her family would drive her by the Sedona Cultural Park in West Sedona. She always hoped that it would reopen. “I finally just thought, ‘Why not start something?’ Even if it’s just a petition, it wouldn’t be the final step,” she said.
Right now, Hilbert has a Change.org petition with more than 500 signatures, as well as an Instagram page she uses to update supporters on her research and progress. “I am relying on social media a lot,” she said. “There are a lot of tourists and locals on Instagram, and this could come up in their explore feed in a lot of different ways.”
The 13-year-old began her initiative by reaching out to Sedona City Manager Justin Clifton and Assistant City Manager Karen Osburn to learn more about the park history and who currently owns it.
“They were very nice and sent me a lot of information,” Hilbert said. “They provided me with everything they had. I didn’t think they’d give me all the information that they did.”
The Sedona Cultural Park was open between 2000 and 2003. In its heyday, the park included an outdoor amphitheater, festival grounds and parking. Other future amenities were supposed to include an arts village. In 2004, Sedona Cultural Park Inc., the former owners of the park, went bankrupt and had to shut the park down.
Michael Tennyson later co-purchased the land through his company Flump & Lump LLC, based in Custer, S.D., along with the now-defunct Fitch Industries. Sathcupa LLC [SAve THe CUltural PArk] and Woo Woo LLC — which are both companies fully owned by Tennyson — later acquired full ownership of the land.
According to reporting by the Sedona Red Rock News, the last time the park was talked about in a public setting was in 2015 when Tennyson spoke at a Sedona Planning and Zoning Commission meeting and brought up plans for a resort and conference center, a wellness village and residential area.
The plans also called for expansions to Yavapai College. During this 2015 meeting, Tennyson said he had been in talks with investors but wouldn’t make any promises until he got everything approved by the city.
“We’re only going to do this once. We want to do it right and have it be successful,” he said at the meeting. But Hilbert aims to restore the park to what it originally was. She said she has already reached out to Tennyson twice and is still awaiting a response.
“More than anything, I just make people aware,” she said. “I don’t want it to become an eyesore. It still has its original beauty.” For Hilbert, the park has a level of sentimental value to her even though it was shut down before she was born.
“I’ve been playing music since I was 10 years old and I love going to concerts,” she said. “I thought it was such a waste to be sitting there; I know it’s not doing any good.”