ELY, Nev. (AP) — Nevada’s Great Basin Institute has been awarded a federal grant to begin planning the creation of what the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources says is the nation's first professional recreational trail-building school.
The department announced the $160,000 grant Thursday from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. It will be used to fund feasibility studies, economic analyses and other preliminary work to support creation of a trail-building school in Ely near Great Basin National Park.
U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, a Nevada Democrat, said she worked with the Nevada Division of Outdoor Recreation and businesses and tourism officials in White Pine County to ensure such grants go to states like Nevada, where tourism and travel industries have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This grant to the Great Basin Institute will help students get hands-on experience preparing for careers in Nevada’s world-class outdoor recreation industry,” she said.
Kyle Horvath, director of White Pine County Tourism and Recreation, said Nevada is well-positioned to take advantage of new trail-building workforces on public lands.
“Ely and its beautiful mountain landscape is centrally located in the Mountain West where trail-based outdoor recreation is booming," he said.
The University of Nevada founded the Great Basin Institute in 1998 to advance applied research and ecological literacy through communities and agency partnerships to support national parks, forests, open space and public lands.
“This initial feasibility study will generate key data and analysis on recreational trails, along with a deeper understanding of how local economies benefit from outdoor recreation infrastructure,” said Jerry Keir, executive director of the institute.
The grant will fund an analysis for new trails and examine how to maximize use of federal funds invested in outdoor recreation and trails nationally, Keir said. It also will be used to explore opportunities to advance workforce development for tribes.
Colin Robertson, administrator of the Nevada Division of Outdoor Recreation, said outdoor recreation contributes $5.5 billion to Nevada's economy annually, supporting more than 59,000 jobs.
“Outdoor recreation and trail use has exploded in recent years, and the COVID-19 pandemic has shined a light on the critical importance of all communities having opportunities to escape to the outdoors for our physical and mental health,” Robertson said.
“As the demand for outdoor recreation continues to grow, the need for skilled workers who can plan, design, build and expand trails is more pressing than ever," he said.
A request for proposals to conduct the planning study will be released by the Great Basin Institute in early October.