The following article is from the NOHVCC Newsletter – January 2016 edition. This is a great example of what we can do in Maryland too!
by Dave Halsey, NOHVCC Contributing Writer
If your town is in need of revitalization, and you need a good example to prove to your city council or county commissioners that off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation can play a role, check out the town of Gallup, New Mexico.
Gallup, population 20,000, went from being labeled “drunktown USA” to being named “Adventure Capitol of New Mexico” by the New Mexico Legislature.
Gallup is located in the northwest corner of the state. Established in 1881, it once was a hub for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, had a thriving lumber industry, uranium mining, and an oil refinery. It was a popular tourist stopover on Route 66. Its motocross track hosted many qualifying races for events sanctioned by the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA).
Then, all that changed.
“From the mid-1980s to 2000, I call those the ‘Dark Ages’ for Gallup’s economic and recreational opportunities,” said Greg Kirk. “It was the demise of my hometown. We had a loss of industry and tourism. Mines closed, the lumber industry died, the railroad hub moved out. The Gallup motocross track ceased activity. Two of the three cycle shops closed their doors. Our OHV trails became a site of illegal dumping, shooting and partying. The Interstate Highway bypassed Route 66. We became the poorest county in the state of New Mexico. We were labeled ‘drunktown USA’.”
Kirk, a physical therapist and father of three, is a former racer of events including World Off-Road Championship series (WORCS), Best in the Desert (BITD), and SCORE International. He is president of the Red Rock Motorsports Club, Inc. He is also secretary of Adventure Gallup and Beyond, a not-for-profit organization that was created to market the area’s natural assets as an adventure tourist destination, and today promotes wellness and the expansion of outdoor recreation in the region. Kirk presented the story of the revitalization of Gallup at the annual conference of the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC), in October of 2015. “We’re looking at the quality of life, tourism, the economic base, and reinventing our self-image,” he said.
Here is a summary of events that took place that got Gallup out of the “Dark Ages” and serves as an example for others:
1999 – The “Adventure Gallup” (AG) concept emerged during economic development planning.
2000 – A steering committee was formed, including the City of Gallup, McKinley County, Tribal Representatives, non-profit organizations, and the private sector. McKinley County obtained a block grant from the State to study the feasibility of developing adventure tourism.
2001 – The feasibility study demonstrated that adventure tourism, once implemented, could initially increase tourism. “Adventure Gallup and Beyond” (AGB) was created as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that oversees all kinds of outdoor adventure for Gallup and the surrounding area.
2002 – The University of New Mexico completed a marketing plan. The Legislature appropriated $35,000 to purchase a local rock climbing area. Youth Conservation Corp builds the flagship Pyramid Rock hiking trail.
2005 – The Legislature appropriated $80,000 for AG improvements. The City of Gallup sponsored a trails and open-space master plan. Gallup held its first mountain bike races.
2006 – Creation of the Zuni Mountain Trail Partnership, an agreement between the U.S. Forest Service, McKinley County, Gallup Trails, AGB, and YCC.
2010 – The revitalization of the track, now called Gallup OHV and MX Park, thanks to the efforts of Red Rock Motorsports.
2007 to 2012 – Development of a comprehensive mountain bike trail for the Zuni Mountains and connecting towns. Start of new mountain bike races. Gallup is named “Adventure Capital of New Mexico” by the State Legislature.
The economic impact of Gallup’s adventure tourism is impressive, attracting 32,000 adventure tourists annually, with mountain biking and off-road events taking in over $1 million for the past 8 years. There have been new businesses created. Spring cleanup projects involving Jeeps West, Boy Scouts, YCC, and county detainees have disposed of 100,000 lb. of trash from the recreation area.
“Dreams do come true,” said Kirk. “AGB and its partners have built to provide access to more than 150 miles of single-track trail for biking, running, horse-back riding, and cross-country skiing. The OHV park itself has 25 miles of trail, but with adjacent trails from the landowners, we have approximately 50 miles of trail.
“As of 2015, the Gallup OHV and MX Track has been awarded funds totaling $360,000 from the Recreational Trails Program; $60,000 from the New Mexico Game and Fish OHV program; $1,000 from Tread Lightly!, and over $30,000 in sponsorships, including in-kind donations from the city, county and private sector.
“The city council sees the changes. They see people coming to town. They see this land being utilized correctly. The land was ‘buffoon central’ back in the day because every weekend vandals were out there and they were pulling (injured) riders off the motocross track because it was so unstructured and unsafe. Since we took over and implemented rules, regulations, and enforcement, there’s been a huge change. The ambulance has been out there twice in 5 years.
“To me this was the ultimate reward. Our club brought racing back to Gallup. So, to see the gates drop or the green flag wave, that brings me a smile from ear to ear every time I see it.”
To see the powerpoint presentation on the revitalization of Gallup, visit: http://nohvcc.org/Education/Conference/2015-presentations/docs/default-source/2015conferencepresentations/adventuregallup_gregkirk.
To get the complete story about Adventure Gallup & Beyond, go to: http://www.adventuregallup.org/. To learn more about Red Rock Motorsports, visit: http://www.redrockmotorsports.com/#.