This one addresses the first presentation at the work session by SE Group on the outdoor recreation plan.
[This is the second in a series of articles on the Grant County Commission meetings.]
By Mary Alice Murphy
The Grant County Commission work session had a bare quorum, with District 1 Commissioner and Chair Chris Ponce, as well as District 2 Commissioner Javier "Harvey" Salas out due to illness.
District 5 Commissioner and Vice Chair Harry Browne led the meeting.
The first presentation came via Zoom from the SE Group giving an update on the county's Outdoor Recreation and Trails Master Plan.
Drew Pollak-Bruce, Julia Randall and Annaka Egan were on the call.
Randall said this was the group's second update to the commission. "We have done three site visits and we will present several draft recommendations. For those of you who have not yet completed the survey, either through one of our site visits or online, we invite you to go to getoutsidegrantcounty.org ( https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/f63b09fb5f734c72918305e6e5c9cb37)"
She said in November the group held an open house, with outreach and engagement, including a visioning survey and analysis. "We had several rounds of focus group meetings, virtual and in-person, with different groups, such as motorized and non-motorized, as well as alternative and water-based groups."
The group continues to meet with stakeholders who are "passionate on recreation."
Randall said the members have developed a data gap analysis, a map set, and geodatabase construction. "The database will be shared with the county. We completed a policy context and perspectives on recreation, as well as an analysis of the trail counting data collection. Our ongoing coordination with the Steering Committee includes local trails and open space groups and stakeholders."
The members of the steering committee include the Bureau of Land Management, the Gila National Forest, Western New Mexico University, and the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. Due to frequent federal agency turnover, there is usually at least one person who is new to the project. "It's just part of the process."
The existing conditions map set has been completed. It includes land ownership, outdoor recreation assets, trail assets, tourism amenities, transportation assets and transportation and connector trails. This too will be shared with federal agencies and the county. "It can be used as a tourism map printed or put on a phone. It will be a huge asset, with all different types of trails on it."
The SE group at its most recent site visit, visited three different areas in the county, Cliff-Gila, Mimbres and the Grant County Administration Center in Silver City. They also had a tabling event at the recent rodeo, and made drop-in visits to recreation-focused businesses
Pollak-Bruce said he had a last-minute conversation with Power Sports, which came late to a session. "Being presented at different sites really helped." He noted the plan recommendations report can be accessed on the website https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/f63b09fb5f734c72918305e6e5c9cb37
On the same page, those who wish to provide feedback on the draft plan recommendations may complete the survey, if they were unable to attend any of the recent live sessions.
The main topics of the draft plan recommendations include fostering resource collaboration, with the goal to improve connectivity, encourage equitable access, support trail and recreation management, balance a diverse set of uses, provide wayfinding and information, protect ecosystems through sustainable trails and recreation, and preserve and complement Grant County's economy, identity and character. Each topic has actions recommended for it.
Pollak-Bruce noted the need for information on stargazing from land management agencies. He also pointed out that due to the large number of trails managed by the Forest Service and BLM, "there is not a huge need for more trails, but they do need to be better managed and improved. There are more needs for trails in urban areas for bicycling and walking the dog, for instance. I did hear a lot of people saying: 'We don't want to be Moab.' So, we want to make sure to scale the actions."
Randall said the group recommends a memorandum of understanding between the county, the municipalities and the land agencies dedicated to managing the trails and recreational assets in the county.
Also recommended is a citizen advisory group bringing together and representing different resident user groups and different areas of the county.
The problems this group addresses include agency district boundaries that may lie far beyond the bounds of the county, a lack of centralized source of recreation management information, a lack of public input on recreation projects on a county-wide scale, and a lack of maintenance capacity on a county-wide scale, with undue reliance on volunteer-organized trail maintenance.
Pollak-Bruce said the MOU will help leverage resources, with the county, municipalities and federal agencies being required to put in some financing. This would be one entity that would manage the trails across agencies, with their being one plan for management in one place.
Randall said the next steps include analysis of the recommendations survey, with incorporation of feedback on recommendations; a motorized use survey targeted to users and non-users, with a follow-up on the creation of a motorized-specific group. Another step would include development of a future opportunities map, with the culmination being a plan document.
Pollak-Bruce said that Power Sports told him about 150 people were interested in a motorized group. "We want to make sure everyone is involved. Then we will put it all into the recommendations. We hope to have the plan document ready in August, so please get your surveys done."
Browne had a couple of questions. "To what extent is connectivity an issue of local and federal agencies collaborating or local-local collaborations?"
Pollak-Bruce replied: "Both, but probably more local-local, because there is interest in connecting the communities. The connection to the Continental Divide Trail is maybe more between Silver City and the federal agencies. It is rare to have two partnering. It's usually three, which speaks to the value of the MOU."
Browne asked about the structure of the citizen advisory board.
Pollak-Bruce said it could be similar to a water association, with paid executive director and staff. "The advisory board would direct that staff."
Browne asked for model examples, and Pollak-Bruce said he could provide them.
The next presentation was covered in a previous article, which addressed the Black Fire and impacts from potential flooding, due to the need to get the information out as the monsoon rains continue to increase. Please visit: https://www.grantcountybeat.com/news/news-articles/72686-grant-county-commission-holds-lengthy-work-session-062122-part-1