County News

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not hard to put a price tag on progress — it’s $3 a day.

That’s how much it now costs to park in the heretofore free lot across from the immensely popular scenic overlook at the Sedona Airport. The new payment plan was instituted in November, according to airport general manager Amanda Shankland.

A driver pays $3 into a parking vending machine near the entrance to the lot and receives a ticket to display inside the car. It’s good for a full day. The machine doesn’t give change, so the airport sometimes has a staff member onsite to “greet visitors, make change and talk to them,” Shankland said.

The fees, which would likely generate more than $200,000 per year by her estimate, will fund improvements to the parking lot as well as the overlook area.

Shankland said the details were worked out with the county, from which the Sedona Airport Authority leases the property. “The money does not go into general fund. Every single penny goes into the overlook, for its safety and beauty.” She added that no taxpayer money is being used.

Chief among the planned improvements is paving and marking the dirt lot. A presentation by Shankland calls for 119 oversize spaces, handicapped parking, loading zones and bus spaces.

Other improvements for the lot are the addition of sheltered vending machines, trash and recycling stations, and better bathrooms, an upgrade over the current Porta-potties.

The plan also calls for improved visibility and access to the trailhead adjacent to the lot.

In connection with parking lot changes, Shankland said a new pedestrian crosswalk will be built to improve safety.

As it is now, bottlenecks arise, especially during peak hours, because the current crosswalk is located where cars enter and exit the lot.

The new crosswalk will be located a short distance — perhaps 100 feet or so — past the entrance to the lot and will be ADA compliant.

Landscaping and new fencing would provide clear demarcation of vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

Shankland also envisions using the parking revenue to create a second level to the overlook, immediately below the current location. She said it would offer a grassy area [actually, artificial grass, because it is more environmentally friendly], picnic area, poured concrete benches, bike rack, a selfie stop, planters and perhaps sculptures.

She said the improvements would be done in phases over the next few years, and estimated the costs would be $150,000 for the parking lot work and $100,000 for the overlook.

The decision to charge for parking has its critics, which is not surprising given Sedonans’ often contentious relationship with the airport.

In fact, soon after the plan took effect, Shankland said airport security video showed a person getting out of his car and throwing the sign into the street. Another purposely ran over the sign, which has been replaced.

Telephone messages and internet posts further revealed what Shankland characterized as “disdain” and “rampant hate” toward anything to do with the airport.

There also were questions about whether the airport has the authority to enforce paid parking. “We can enforce it and we will enforce it,” Shankland said.

Even outsiders offered their two cents on paid parking. A review on TripAdvisor noted, “Panoramic view but cheeky $3 parking fee .... recommended spot for sunset viewing of the Sedona red rocks and the view does not disappoint. Despite the exploitative $3 parking fee — whether you are there all day or just for 10 minutes ....”

Prior to that, city officials had their own objections, notifying Shankland of two code violations in connection with the new-look lot.

According to Audree Juhlin, the city’s Community Development Director, airport staff failed to get a building permit when it installed the parking pay station at the entrance to the lot and neglected to obtain a permit for the A-frame sign, a few feet tall, at the entrance to the lot that alerts drivers of the parking fee.

The violations have been corrected, she added.

Despite the challenges and negativity surrounding the airport — and with potential growth on the horizon — Shankland, as she has since she took the job nearly a year ago, said she is dedicated to building positive relationships between the airport and the community.

“You’re never going to make everyone happy, but I want to be able to address their concerns,” she said. “Just a normal conversation, like ‘Hey, Amanda, why are you doing that?’

“Don’t be angry that I’m trying to make it better.”


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