Published on Mar 20, 2015
It has almost been a year since President Obama designated the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument. In the lead up to the anniversary community groups have been working on projects to promote the site. As Simon Thompson reports Economists say these projects are key to the monument generating the projected 7.4 million dollars economic activity every year.
About 50 volunteers armed with shovels, rakes and wheel barrels met up at the foot of the Organ Mountains for a working day in the weekend sunshine.
Volunteers shoveled dirt, mixed concrete, and lugged rocks to the first Organ Mountains Desert Peaks National Monument sign.
Las Cruces Bureau of Land Management district officer Bill Childress led the charge he says the national monument signs are the major first step in promoting the monument throughout the US and across the globe.
“It is beautiful and significant and extremely significant, it speaks for it’s self. Words cannot explain this beautiful iconic mountain range” Childress said.
But the monument’s value is far more than simply aesthetic. A study commissioned by the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce projected the monument designation would generate $7.4 million in economic activity every year.
Childress says there’s already been a 25 to 30 percent increase in visitors since the designation.
“We have found that when you establish areas like this that it will boost the economy more people will come and visit the community” Childress said.
Las Cruces Green Chamber President Carrie Hamblen says visitors generate revenue at hotels, local restaurants and stores.
“Our local businesses will have income coming in. For a community that is a little over powered by chain stores we want our local businesses to thrive and with a designation of a national monument that would help that” Hamblen said.
Hamblen says local businesses are embracing the monument through marketing. Hamblen says there’s already an Organ Mountains cocktail and even a coffee blend.
A Center For Western Priorities report says senior citizens are three times more likely to move into Western counties with a higher percentage of protected public lands like national parks, monuments, and other conservation areas.
New Mexico State University Economist Chris Erickson says the Organ Mountains Desert Peaks Monument designation is having an impact on economic prosperity in the region. But Erickson says Las Cruces could be doing a lot more by establishing hiking and bike trails and installing historical markers. He also says there’s a need to coordinate marketing of the area and monument to tourists and to prospective residents and businesses.
“They are a completely undeveloped asset we need to start developing, we need to start developing economically. We need start developing amenities that will make this a really pleasant place that will attract people,” Erickson said.
The BLM’s Childress says many marketing isn’t easy in a monument that’s nearly a half-million acres. The monument has everything from dinosaur fossils to ancient structures and scores of recreational opportunities.
“There is all these kinds of resources they are diamonds in the rough and we are hoping to be able to interpret those resources, in the future for the public” Childress said.
Childress says as the monument’s 1 year anniversary approaches more of those assets and features will be promoted and opened up to the public.
For KRWG- I’m Simon Thompson