BEYOND THE NEON: Get Outdoors Nevada encourages locals and visitors to step outside, enjoy nature

Early on a beautiful Saturday in March, while much of Las Vegas slept in, more than a dozen cheerful volunteers gathered in the northeast valley to give back.

They collected cigarette butts, bottle caps and broken glass. They pulled weeds, snagged fast-food wrappers and swept the paved trail that parallels the Las Vegas Wash from Stewart Avenue to Bonanza Road. They chatted, got to know each other a little and laughed a lot.

While a couple of them persistently struggled to free a large piece of cardboard stuck on the far side of the fence that borders the wash, Almendra Johnson, an education and volunteer program coordinator for Get Outdoors Nevada, joked, “This is where they hulk out.”

“It’s a pride thing!” said 18-year-old volunteer James Nelson after finally wrangling the cardboard with the help of a broom.

“We’re a really interesting group of nerds, aren’t we?” Johnson said.

Volunteers pick up trash during a Las Vegas Wash trail cleanup sponsored by Get Outdoors Nevada in Las Vegas on Saturday, March 9, 2019. (Bill Hughes/Las Vegas News Bureau)

The nonprofit Get Outdoors Nevada, funded by various local governmental entities and businesses, hosts scores of volunteer activities like these each year to help connect locals and visitors — nerds and non-nerds alike — with outdoor spaces in Southern Nevada. The advocacy group also funds school field trips, maintains the Las Vegas Community Healing Garden, and fosters nature-based “corporate give-back” events for professionals in town for conferences.

“They’re always surprised,” Mauricia Baca, Get Outdoors Nevada’s executive director, said of the visiting volunteers. “It’s not the type of thing they expect when they come to Las Vegas.”

But maybe they should. After all, a recent Urban Outdoor Access Analysis, conducted by the Trust for Public Land and supported by outdoor retailer REI, listed Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson among the top 50 large U.S. cities for their park access and proximity to public lands.

Baca hopes visitors who are made aware of what Las Vegas has to offer beyond the resort corridor “will come back and explore more of the natural amenities that we have in our community.”

Get Outdoors Nevada also tries to spread the word about how important outdoor recreation is to the local economy. In September, the group launched the Nevada Outdoor Business Coalition, which now comprises 40 members, to help highlight this fact and encourage responsible stewardship of Nevada’s natural areas. The growing recreation economy already generates $12.6 billion in consumer spending and 87,000 jobs in the state, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.

Johnson said it’s fun to introduce people to the valley’s numerous outdoor spaces. Even lifelong Las Vegans sometimes approach her after an event to say, “I had no idea this was here!”

“They get so into it,” she said. “I love it.”

Count local volunteer Christopher Gonzales among those who received an education about the recreation trails that line the Las Vegas Wash. Looking for a Saturday activity he could share with his 11-year-old daughter, Giselle, he chose the cleanup in his neighborhood because “it helps out the community on our side” of town.

“You see the trails but you don’t really think about how they connect,” Gonzales said.

As he and Giselle deployed their Get Outdoors Nevada trash-pickers to grab some nearby litter, he added, “I need to get one of these for my house.”

For more information about Get Outdoors Nevada or to volunteer, visit getoutdoorsnevada.org.

Get Outdoors Nevada volunteer coordinator Jackie Spicer wheels supplies for volunteers during a Las Vegas Wash trail cleanup in Las Vegas on Saturday, March 9, 2019. (Bill Hughes/Las Vegas News Bureau)

To offer feedback on this story or suggestions for future stories on Las Vegas Newswire, contact Managing Editor Steve Bornfeld at SBornfeld@lvcva.com.

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