SEDONA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - As the weather in the Phoenix area heats up, Sedona and its attractions are bracing for an increase in weekend visitors. Some popular destinations remain closed or are restricting the number of visitors allowed at once.

“My guess is that it’s about one-third of our regular visiting numbers,” said Hank Vincent, who is the park manager at Slide Rock State Park.

Sedona braces for visitors

Vincent says he is limiting entry to just 75 cars at a time, with no walk-ins or drop-offs. The idea is to make it easier for people to socially distance and to keep groups down to ten people or less.

Ramadas and charcoal grills are also cordoned off at the park. But by mid-morning on Friday, the park was filling up with visitors, many of them from the Phoenix area.

“You know, it was getting a little warm in the Valley, so we just ventured up north a little bit. We wanted to go hiking, but this place was open so we came to enjoy the water and the weather,” said Richard Moreno, who was visiting the park with his family.

Down State Route 89A in Sedona, the cars and crowds are also returning.

“We saw a spike, but it’s still driveable,” said Penny Gilbert, who has lived in Sedona for 11 years. She says the crowds started returning two weeks ago, even though much of the town and its most famous trails remain closed.

Gilbert says she is not worried about outsiders bringing the coronavirus with them.

“I think they should allow people to go hiking because we're in the open air,” said Gilbert.

Governor Doug Ducey’s stay-at-home order has exemptions for hiking and other recreational activities. But for those thinking about driving up to the Sedona area, Hank Vincent has some advice.

“What I've been telling people is to plan alternative destinations. If you’re going to take the two hour drive out of Phoenix, you should have something in your back pocket in case we have our gates closed,” said Vincent.

Morgan Loew's hard-hitting investigations can be seen weekdays on CBS 5 News at 6:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.
 
 

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