GBI Receives $160,000 for Nation’s First Recreation Trail Building School

Vince LaPlante, GBI’s Trail and Restoration Operations Coordinator, once noted that, “the majority of folks that use trails would rather not even think about the labor or design that went into their maintenance or construction, but rather see trails as a mindless means of conveyance.” But, indeed, there’s much thought and expertise that goes into designing a trail that works sustainably with the land, that provides the greatest enjoyment for the users and protection for the environment. One could very well look at trail design and construction as an art, or as Vince describes it, “functional sculpture.”

None of this comes naturally without education and mentoring. So we were overwhelmingly delighted with this news: the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is providing a $160,000 grant to the Great Basin Institute to establish the nation’s first-ever professional recreation trail building school in Ely, Nevada. This grant will fund feasibility studies, economic analyses, and other preliminary work to support creation of the trail building school.

The school’s contribution to Nevada will be substantial, as it will further strengthen the state’s status as an outdoor recreation destination, and contribute economically by creating new jobs and advancing workforce development opportunities. But the grant will also support efforts to invest in outdoor trail building on a national scale, and it will also explore opportunities to advance workforce development for Tribal nations regionally and nationally.  According the GBI Executive Director, Jerry Keir, “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.”

Although GBI is taking the lead, the Institute is receiving invaluable support from the Nevada Division of Outdoor Recreation (NDOR), White Pine County Tourism and Recreation, White Pine Main Street Association, and U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto.

Colin Robertson, Administrator of the Nevada Division of Outdoor Recreation “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. 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. The Nevada Division of Outdoor Recreation is proud to support efforts to establish a premier trail building training school right here in the Silver State, and I thank all of our partners who helped advance this landmark project.”

Kyle Horvath, Director of White Pine County Tourism and Recreation: “White Pine County continues to redevelop its economy around numerous interconnected trail systems in and near Ely. Ely and its beautiful mountain landscape is centrally located in the Mountain West where trail-based outdoor recreation is booming, and Nevada is well-positioned to take advantage of training new trail building workforces on our public lands.” 

Senator Catherine Cortez Masto: “I pushed hard to make sure that EDA grants would go to states like Nevada with hard-hit tourism and travel industries, so we can continue our recovery from the 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, and I’ll keep working in the Senate to help promote Nevada jobs in this sector.”

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