Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016 | 2 a.m.
Most associate having a good time in Las Vegas with casinos, clubs and other entertainment. However, an abundance of things to do exists beyond the tourist corridor.
Despite the plethora of public lands and sites, including popular spots like Mount Charleston and Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, a variety of recreational activities often goes unnoticed.
To promote less-frequented public lands and address the value of protecting them, the Latin Chamber of Commerce; Outside Las Vegas Foundation; Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO); the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management conducted a six-hour tour Wednesday to explore our “unique outdoor treasures.”
The organizations took about 20 business owners, youth and community leaders to Valley of Fire State Park, the Atlatl Petroglyph site, the Old Spanish Trail Marker and an ATV exploration of Nellis Dunes.
“You have to literally introduce people to these places,” said Mauricia Baca, Outside Las Vegas Foundation executive director. “The time is now. Nevada is at a place where we’re competing against other states in the West. Our public lands are one of those ways.”
Peter Guzman, president of the Latin Chamber of Commerce, said the only way to preserve public lands is to make people more aware.
“We have these wonderful lands not far from us, so we need to be putting this in the forefront,” Guzman said. “We as a group need to start pushing this and letting people know they are accessible and easy to get to.”
In addition to addressing the value of local public lands, the campaign underscored educational and economic opportunities that public lands provide, particularly for the Latino community.
Baca said a lot of local businesses look for ways to draw people to Nevada, and increasing awareness to public lands places an emphasis on quality of life. Increased tourism and job opportunities associated with public lands highlight how the area can benefit economically.
Guzman explained that public lands “set a stage for a happy community,” which benefits local industries.
The outreach emphasized the importance of familiarizing the Latino community with its history in Nevada. During the stop at the Old Spanish Trail, the organizations discussed the community’s need to connect with its heritage.
“There’s an awakening going on in the Hispanic community,” Juan Palma, the chief conservation officer of HECHO, said. There is “a new phenomenon of the Hispanic community to these public lands by reconnecting them to their heritage.”
In celebration of the National Park Service's Centennial in August, the organization hopes to continue to push support for Nevada’s public lands and sites.
The director of HECHO, Camilla Simon said, “It’s a good time to go out and remind ourselves of these places and what they mean to us.”