Fund helps build outdoor infrastructure - Albuquerque Journal

Fund helps build outdoor infrastructure

Six New Mexico organizations will receive state funding through a pilot program intended to fill in gaps in New Mexico’s outdoor infrastructure and, hopefully, help them take advantage of a federal windfall.

Last week, the state Outdoor Recreation Division, a division of the New Mexico Economic Development Department, announced the recipients of the first Special Projects and Outdoor Infrastructure Fund.

The six organizations – Southwest New Mexico Arts, Culture and Tourism, Santa Clara Pueblo, Santa Fe Conservation Trust, Continental Divide Trail Coalition, Village of Taos Ski Valley and Adventure Gallup and Beyond – will receive a total of $75,000 to help fund projects ranging from outdoor pavilions to trail improvements.

Division director Axie Navas told the Journal the program, which was created alongside the division itself during the 2019 legislative session, is designed to help fund outdoor projects that create a direct economic benefit for their communities.

Axie Navas

“If we want to see those gains, we have to invest in those things,” Navas said. “I think we’ve seen that play out in other states that have really prioritized outdoor recreation.”

Additionally, Navas said the fund is designed to align with the priorities set forth in the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is now funded in perpetuity following the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act earlier this year. The program offers federal grants to state and local governments, but requires a monetary match from those municipalities.

Navas said the state fund can help cities and counties take full advantage of that federal fund.

“For some of our communities that have amazing outdoor recreation potential but maybe not as much ready cash … a program like this, funds like this can really help with that,” she said.

The outdoor division received 50 applications from organizations across the state, including rural Mora, Sierra and Hidalgo counties. Navas said projects were evaluated on the economic impact on their communities, their conservation focus and how they connect to other projects in the region.

Navas said she’d like to find a stable funding source for the program, which was funded this year from the division’s general fund, to help it grow in future years. Maintaining the fund, Navas said, will help the state capitalize on federal grants, helping communities build projects that expand New Mexico’s outdoor recreation ecosystem.

“If we want to grow the economy, we also have to invest in these places that are so crucial to it,” Navas said.


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