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Farmington claims it has the first outdoor recreation industry department in New Mexico

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
Spectators watch as Virgil Ray,Tonopah, Arizona navigates up a rock face, Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018 during the W.E. Rock Grand Nationals at the Brown Spring Campground rock crawl in Glade Run north of Farmington.

FARMINGTON — While leaders across New Mexico are calling for the creation of a state outdoor recreation department, the City of Farmington claims that it is the first city in New Mexico to have a department dedicated to attracting and building industries connected to outdoor recreation.

Farmington spokeswoman Shaña Reeves said the city is not aware of any other New Mexico cities that have a department specifically for building outdoor recreation opportunities and attracting businesses related to outdoor recreation.

According to a press release from the city, outdoor recreation is the fourth largest economic sector in the United States.

Businesses like those run by Darin Blakley of Farmington Outdoor Adventures serving users of local recreation areas figure big in the City of Farmington's plans to expand and enhance the area's outdoor tourism venues. Blakley is seen here in a May 2018 file photo.

This department was created this year in connection to a regional effort known as the Outdoor Recreation Industry Initiative, or ORII.

ORII traces its roots to a branding initiative the Farmington Convention and Visitors Bureau launched about four years ago. Through the branding initiative, the bureau identified outdoor amenities as something local residents would like to showcase to visitors. This led to the brand “Jolt Your Journey,” which can be seen on the signs welcoming visitors into Farmington.

The branding also led to city leaders, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Bureau of Land Management, business owners, San Juan County, Four Corners Economic Development and others teaming up to form the Outdoor Recreation Industry Initiative. The initiative focused on attracting industries like guides, outfitters and outdoor equipment manufacturers to the area. This group began about 18 months ago, according to a press release from the City of Farmington.

Jon Lillywhite rides his bike, Thursday, April 26, 2018 along the Anasazi Trail in Farmington.

Mayor Nate Duckett said it became apparent to him while ORII was talking about the plans for developing outdoor recreation economy that someone was going to have to own ORII to provide funding for these projects.

According to a press release from the city, all the partners will remain actively engaged, however the city has chosen to take the lead by creating the department of ORII. The department will be led by former PRCA director Cory Styron.

“I think right now our community is looking at what it is going to be in the future,” Styron said.

At front, Jeremy McDainel rides bikes with his family on Friday, March 16, 2018 at Animas Park in Farmington.

He said residents are going to see enhanced and new outdoor recreation opportunities. These opportunities include new segments of the Animas River trail to connect Farmington’s east side to the west side, a trail connecting Farmington Lake to the Glade Run Recreation Area and expanded offerings for off-highway vehicles including regional trails.

Styron said the hope is that the new outdoor recreation opportunities will spur industry development connected with the amenities. He highlighted the Paddle Shack, which rents out kayaks and paddle boards at Farmington Lake, and Animas Outdoors, which rented bikes for people to use along the river trail, as examples.

Styron said Farmington is currently in the process of vetting several projects.

More information about the ORII department can be found at fmtn.org/ORII.

The Animas River is pictured on Friday, Aug. 17, 2018 by the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park. The city of Farmington's Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan submitted to the state last year included extending the river trail system in two locations. The plan calls for spending $500,000 to extend the Among the Waters portion of the trail and $1.5 million to build a trail near Farmington Museum.

Mayor's Table video focuses on potential for Gateway Park

This week’s Mayor’s Table focused on the areas surrounding Farmington Museum at Gateway Park.  Currently, the city owns land both north and south of the museum. Duckett and City Councilor Janis Jakino spoke about their vision for that land in the Mayor’s Table video, which was released this morning.

“Gateway Park, to me, is going to be a symbolic part of this community,” Duckett said when reached by phone Monday.

He said Gateway Park will tell a story and celebrate the river.

Duckett said he envisions an area where there will be a pool of water where families can wade into the Animas River or paddle board. He said the area south of the museum could have restaurants and retail developed along the river.

Duckett said the city is currently working on a feasibility study for development of the areas surrounding the museum.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

A life guard watches The Beach swimming area, Thursday, June 14, 2018 at Farmington Lake.