Dec. 5 – The first director of New Mexico’s Outdoor Recreation Division, a woman praised for successfully launching and building the new agency to bolster a key industry in the state, is stepping down at the end of the year.
The New Mexico Department of Economic Development announced Monday Axie Navas’ planned departure and said assistant director Alyssa Renwick will lead the department until a new director is appointed.
Navas took up the position in September 2019.
“Axie has led this cause with innovative and groundbreaking work, resulting in many accomplishments for New Mexico,” Secretary of Economic Development Alicia J. Keyes said in a press release.
Navas is a first-time mother and plans to balance the next phase of her career with the responsibilities of motherhood, Keyes added.
Navas did not respond to a call for comment.
She joined the newly formed Outdoor Recreation Division after five years at Santa Fe-based Outside magazine, where she graduated from Digital Editorial Director after previous positions as Outside Editor-in-Chief, Senior Editor of Buyers Guides, Associate Managing Online Editor and Assistant Online Editor .
In the press release, she noted that the department “created the first outdoor equity fund of its kind, developed robust outdoor infrastructure financing for communities across the state, and increased career opportunities in the outdoor industry by nearly 20.” I am confident that this is just the beginning.”
The Outdoor Equity Fund has distributed $2 million in government and private funding to 128 organizations to create outdoor experiences for nearly 40,000 low-income youth and awarded more than $5 million to 66 outdoor infrastructure projects.
“It’s obvious that she’s done such an excellent job,” Senator Jeff Steinborn, a Las Cruces Democrat, said in an interview.
He sponsored the legislation that created the Outdoor Recreation Division and his day job is executive director of Outdoor New Mexico, a nonprofit organization that promotes the protection and appropriate recreational use of outdoor natural areas.
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“We hit a home run with Axie,” Steinborn said. “She punched well above her weight. It was a one-woman business for a while.”
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis ranked New Mexico fifth in 2021 for outdoor recreation with 18.2 percent job growth, behind only Hawaii, Rhode Island, Alaska and Wyoming — states, all of which are significantly smaller than New Mexico Mexico are.
Navas also secured a nearly $2 million grant from the Federal Economic Development Administration to help the state’s outdoor recreation industry recover from the pandemic.
“We’re investing in and expanding our outdoor economy,” Steinborn said. “We have made investments in the millions, for example in the creation of hiking trails.”