New Mexico will seek out a bigger share of the nation’s outdoor recreation economy by creating a special division dedicated to expanding the state’s foothold in the lucrative industry.
At a state park in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed legislation that creates a special outdoor recreation division. The plan takes cues from other states in the U.S. West such as Colorado that actively promote outdoor adventure as an engine of economic development and a resource for public health and consciousness about natural wonders.
Sponsors of the New Mexico bill including state Rep. Angelica Rubio of Las Cruces say they’ve added a unique component: a public-private grant fund to underwrite outdoor experiences for children from low-income households and diverse backgrounds, who might not otherwise have the time or means to explore nature.
“There is no book big enough to be able to teach what the outdoors can,” Rubio said. “I really want kids to get their hands and feet dirty.”
Rubio expressed confidence that outdoor apparel companies would help sponsor grants for children.
The Democrat-led Legislature approved an initial $200,000 in general fund spending to set up the new division within the Economic Development Department. Another $100,000 pays for infrastructure and trail projects by the state’s Youth Conservation Corps, and the state is providing $100,000 in seed money to the grant fund for childhood programs.
Lujan Grisham recalled learning to ski and finding her love for geology as a child in the mountains outside Santa Fe, and acknowledged many children don’t have the same opportunities.
“This is about providing New Mexicans equal access,” she said.
On hand to pledge support for the initiatives were several state agency secretaries and Public Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richards — who together oversee more than 30 state parks and vast tracks of trust land that are traversed by the Continental Divide Trail, archaeological sites and prime hunting grounds for big game.
Tourism Secretary Jen Schroer ticked off a list of the state’s enviable outdoor attractions that include 17 national parks and monuments.