Base camp meant to inspire entrepreneurs as the city looks to boost tourism
City leaders want local businesses to help deliver on 'Jolt Your Journey' slogan
FARMINGTON — Cory Styron presented a list of 10 outdoor recreation activities — including camping, hiking, fishing, off-roading and snow and water activities — to a group of about a dozen people and asked them to tell him which activities “we don’t have within an hour and a half drive.”
After a pause, one participant pointed out this winter’s lack of snow, to the laughter of the group.
“That’s a mother nature issue — that’s not in our control,” Styron said to more laughter. “We’re perfectly primed for that. The top 10 activities that are outdoor-related are in our community, out our back door, within two hours’ drive — all of these things.”
Styron, who is director of the City of Farmington’s Park, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department, led an Outdoor Recreation Industry Initiative Base Camp workshop on Feb. 3 at San Juan College. Tonya Stinson, executive director of the Farmington Visitors and Convention Bureau, partnered in leading the business idea and incubation workshop that was meant to be a resource for potential for budding outdoor businesses in the Four Corners.
City leadership has looked to outdoor recreation and tourism as the region attempts to diversify its economy in the wake of a bust in the oil and gas industry, and Stinson said the ORII Base Camp aimed to align the economy and the community with the city’s new slogan — ‘Jolt Your Journey.’
“Our brand is Farmington is a place to energize the life journeys of outdoor lovers and active families,” Stinson said, adding “if we’re going to put out that promise, we have to deliver on it, so things like this help us deliver on that.”
During the three-hour workshop, Stinson and Styron presented the group with information on the potential effect the outdoor industry could have on the region — something that the Four Corners is investing in.
Styron said the city and the county have spent or designated millions of dollars for outdoor recreation infrastructure, including Penny Lane Dam renovations, trail development that would create new trails and connect existing trail systems, construction of a water park, adding signage and maps to recreation areas and restructuring the downtown corridor to make it more pedestrian friendly.
“Our community of Farmington and our surrounding partners, we’re putting our money where our mouth is on this and we’re investing in this,” Styron said. “We need people to help us to take it to the next level.”
Carmen Martinez, director of San Juan College’s Small Business Development Center, gave information about the steps it would take to establish a business in the Four Corners, including registering with the government and hiring and tax procedures. Judy Castleberry, director of San Juan College's Enterprise Center, gave a tour of the business incubation and “makers’ space” centers in San Juan College’s Center for Quality Business.
The group also took a tour of potential business locations throughout Farmington, including Farmington Lake and Berg Park, as well as specific downtown buildings that could be used as rental or equipment shops.
Dwayne Davis, owner of Hiking New Mexico who attended the workshop, said the base camp is “not really telling you what it takes” to start a business that uses public lands and must abide by permitting processes and use regulations.
“One thing that you all are not talking about is the rules and the requirements to be out on (Bureau of Land Management) land here,” Davis said during the workshop. “… Everyone has great ideas, but you gotta get down to the red tape of it. Starting your normal business here in town, most everybody here’s gone through that kind of stuff, but once you get out into the bush and doing something, man, you cannot go close to a well location (and) you can barely use those roads for access. The reason why there are no guides here taking you on those hikes is because it’s so hard to get it done.”
Davis said he’s come across roadblocks in establishing his guided hiking business, saying the BLM would require him to empty and remove a portable toilet on a daily basis if he wanted to provide facilities for his customers at the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness Area, and frequent visits and parking by a tour group vehicle “are called a disturbance, and you can’t do that.”
“Those are the issues I’m trying to solve. All these ideas are wonderful, but when you get right down to the meat and potatoes of it, you’re darn lucky if you can pull that off, and that’s why there’s nobody taking people hiking,” Davis said.
Stinson and Styron said they will plan to organize a workshop that covers procedure for understanding rules and regulations and for applying for permits.
Doug McKim, a BLM Farmington Field Office outdoor recreational planner who attended the meeting, said the BLM would work with local business owners to make those processes easier, to apply for special recreation permits if applicable or to help adjust business plans to comply with federal regulations.
“As we start working together to make those things easier, we bring change to our recreation permit processing,” McKim said. “Throughout the state, I get other (BLM recreational specialists) calling and asking ‘How are you doing this? How did you make that work?’ And it’s just looking at things differently to try and integrate those (permitting) demands, so your concerns are valid, but they’re not insurmountable.”
Megan Petersen covers business and education for The Daily Times. Reach her at 505-564-4621 or firstname.lastname@example.org.