New Mexico’s Outside Recreation Business Helps Develop Rural Economies


August 15, 2021 at 2:39 pm

Updated on August 15, 2021 at 2:40 pm

New Mexico’s small towns have reinvented themselves with the state’s endless outdoor recreational opportunities. The historic mining and extraction industry has been in decline since the mid-20th century due to the influx of cheap, internationally procured labor and sources of precious metals. As a result, many mining communities are affected by the changed demand. While many small former mining towns continue to struggle to adapt to radical changes in their economies, others have used their isolated locations to attract adventure seekers and nature lovers.

A New Mexico city completely reinvented its identity to change over time and take advantage of the burgeoning outdoor leisure industry. Nestled in the towering Sangre de Cristo Mountains of northern New Mexico, the village of Questa has established itself as the gateway to the endless outdoor recreational opportunities in northern New Mexico. Questa is near the intersection of freeways 38 and 522; both lead to nearby wilderness areas.

Questa is a former mining town that was once dependent on a molybdenum mine owned by Chevron. The mine was the region’s main employer, but as the price of molybdenum had been falling since the 1970s, there were a number of layoffs. The mine officially closed in 2014, laying off 300 workers. The mass layoffs for such a small community would normally spell disaster, but the village had other plans. By establishing the Questa Economic Development Fund with Chevron’s help, Questa took proactive steps to diversify its off-mine economy. The fund helped lay the foundation for Questa to capitalize on the abundant natural resources on its doorstep.

In 2013, former President Barack Obama built the Rio Grande Del Norte National Monument, which protects nearly 250,000 acres of public land around the northern Rio Grande. The national monument, just a few kilometers north of Questa, includes areas designated as wild and scenic river areas.

The paper. spoke to Lynn Skall, director of the Questa Economic Development Fund, about how Questa has benefited from its outdoor recreational economy. “We have this great opportunity for outdoor enthusiasts and adventurers to come to Questa, use this as a base camp, and take full advantage of the protected and public land,” said Skall.

Skall found that the village’s investments and efforts have paid off. “It’s positively changing the community by generating additional traffic, but it’s the kind of traffic we want. We want people who respect the land and the environment, who are looking for adventure, ”said Skall. “We are seeing an increase in traffic because people are looking for outdoor recreation areas that are not very densely populated, because they want to be away from people.

“This is being driven with strong support from the community, foundations and the state to focus on outdoor recreation as the economic engine for the communities.”

The city’s growing outdoor appeal also helped the city weather the worst of the pandemic. As cities across New Mexico closed, many residents, tired of social distancing, looked to the isolated Sangre De Cristos to beat the crowds. “We’re seeing more traffic getting through despite the isolation and some closures,” Skall said.

New Mexico lawmakers have also heralded New Mexico’s outdoor recreation economy as a sustainable economic route for many rural New Mexico cities. Senator Martin Heinrich, one of the state’s foremost conservationists, has long been a proponent of the New Mexico outdoor recreation economy. “New Mexico’s public lands and outdoor recreation industries are ideally positioned to help our economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Senator Heinrich stated in an email response to The Paper. The Senator added, “If we are to grow New Mexico’s outdoor recreation economy, I believe we need a modern vision for outdoor recreation that reflects the way that all individuals and communities in the United States, and New Mexico in particular, are represented and benefit from outdoor recreation. ”

Questa isn’t the only New Mexico town that has benefited from its location. In the southwest corner of the state, Silver City has established itself as a major outdoor travel destination in the American Southwest. The city lies at the foot of the Gila Wilderness and offers over three million acres of incomparable solitude and outdoor opportunities.

Much like Questa, Silver City weathered the worst of the pandemic, largely thanks to its rugged public image. “We have a lot of people who come here. With the pandemic and the way things were, people tried to escape throughout 2020 and the first half of 2021, trying to get into the wild. We had a steady stream of people who wanted to get out into nature. What better way to socially distance yourself at 8,000 feet? ”Silver City Grant County Chamber of Commerce director Steven Chavira said.

Silver City’s proximity to the Gila has also bolstered the city’s downtown and cultural attractions for visitors returning from the Gila. “As a stopover before arriving in Gila, the city of Silver City and Grant County, we have many offers for visitors who come here. Much effort has been put into the arts and culture of our community. The revitalization of downtown and main street and everything they do to make sure they have plenty to offer and regular cleanup and beautification across the county to make sure first impressions are always positive. ”Chavira added.

According to the Outdoor Industry Association, New Mexico’s outdoor recreational industry contributed directly to 35,000 jobs in the state and added another $ 2.2 billion to the state’s economy.

The New Mexico outdoor recreation economic revolution is expected to continue to expand, and the results have been no less than compelling. Once a victim of a changing global economy, New Mexico’s rural cities and counties have recovered thanks to their access to the state’s abundant natural and sustainable resources.