[Editor's Note: This is the second of several articles on the Grant County Commission work session and regular meeting on Nov. 18 and Nov. 20, 2021. The SE Group gave an update on the Outdoor Recreation and Trail Master Plan.]
By Mary Alice Murphy
The first presentation of the Grant County Commission work session on Nov. 16, 2021, which covered the redistricting of the commission maps can be read at https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/68669-grant-county-commission-hears-first-of-five-presentations-at-work-session-111621-part-1
The second presentation came from SE Group, which has continued to work with the county and several community focus groups on the Outdoor Recreation and Trail Master Plan.
Project Manager Drew Pollak-Bruce said two of his colleagues accompanied him that day. "We have been working with our consultant team advisory committee. It's really been great to work also with Priscilla Shoup (Grant County Planning and Community Development director). She has been collecting trail information with trackers. We are looking to enhance the benefits of outdoor recreation for health and wellness, as well as for economic development. We've done a lot of focus groups and will come back next year with the results." He said the survey would be open for a couple more weeks at https://survey.alchemer.com/s3/6364776/Grant-County-Outdoor-Recreation-Trails-Survey
Annaka Egan said they would be going to the Gila Cliff Dwellings that afternoon, staying overnight at Bear Creek Cabins in Pinos Altos and visiting City of Rocks on Wednesday, before the open house at 5:30-7:30 p.m. See photos taken at the open house at https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/68657-se-group-and-grant-county-hold-open-house-for-outdoor-recreation-plan-111721
Julia Randall talked a bit about the visioning survey. "We would like to see more participation from those who speak Spanish. Predominantly Grant County residents are participating in the survey. People here are using public lands a lot. About a quarter of the survey participants are using them five or more times a week."
Pollak-Bruce noted that was quite a bit higher than in other communities where the firm has worked.
Randall noted that obstacles included lack of time and poor trail maintenance. "People are also not sure where to go. They want a more concentrated plan to find trails."
Pollak-Bruce said perhaps a central database on a tourism website or map. "You will have all the information to create such a map."
Randall said 40 percent of the recipients thought that Grant County should have an outdoor recreation- and tourism-based economy, with 50 percent believing that Grant County should have several economic drivers, including outdoor recreation and tourism. About 61 percent thought Grant County should strive to become a widely known recreational tourism destination, with almost 40 percent saying no.
Emerging themes include concerns about high use and visitor impacts at key outdoor destinations in Grant County, and a desire for new trails, particularly greenways and urban trails. Most respondents were not interested in expanding motorized uses such as e-bikes, and had some desire for recreational events, particularly guided excursions catered toward inexperienced users. Most want naturalness in addition to trail connectivity. Randall noted split opinions on growing tourism in Grant County, with some wanted more tourism and others wanting to keep Grant County on the quiet. Most did not want the county to become like Moab, Utah, or Durango, Colorado.
Pollak-Bruce said because the survey would continue for at least a couple of weeks, "we may get more responses from motorized groups and Spanish speakers."
Randall said the next step after the survey would be the engagement strategy. "We will move into analysis of the different groups."
Pollak-Bruce confirmed another public meeting would take place. "We are using digital media, social media, press releases and flyers, as well as focus groups to get more feedback."
He said the reason the survey would remain open is because people might be fearful of going to the open house with the Covid cases in the community. "We can keep it open longer if needed. We can also get people involved in focus groups."
The next article will cover an update on the proposed disc golf course on state trust land at Maude's Canyon.