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New Outdoor Recreation Center Offers Outdoor Adventure to Students

people around sports equipment

Margaret McKinney/Highlands University
Brian Drake, left, a Highlands work study student in the new Outdoor Recreation Center at Highlands, tells Corbin Baxter about the features of the center’s mountain bikes at the grand opening Sept. 26. Drake is forestry freshman and Baxter is social work junior.

Las Vegas, N.M. – Highlands University students can explore the great outdoors in the scenic Sangre de Cristo mountains near the university, thanks to a new Outdoor Recreation Center that provides the outdoor gear and excursions.

The university celebrated the grand opening for the recreation center Sept. 26.

“Northern New Mexico offers some of the most beautiful scenery anywhere, with opportunities for snow boarding, skiing, hiking, camping, fishing, kayaking, nature photography and much more,” said Kimberly Blea, interim dean of students. “Our new Outdoor Recreation Center and its excursions will connect our students to the magnificent natural environment that is so close to campus.”

The inventory for the Outdoor Recreation Center includes tents and other camping gear, mountain bikes, fishing rods and tackle, kayaks, paddle boards and pedal boats, and other equipment.

Highlands students with valid IDs can check out equipment at no cost. The center is funded through the new campus life initiative fee that students began paying fall semester 2016.

Las Vegas native Joseph Domínguez is the coordinator for the Outdoor Recreation Center and its programming.

“Having skied, fished, hiked and biked Northern New Mexico since childhood, I know firsthand that our location is exceptional for outdoor recreation,” said Domínguez, who earned his MBA and bachelor’s degree at Highlands and served two terms as student body president. “It’s exciting to offer our Highlands students an opportunity to explore what we have in our backyard without the burden of purchasing expensive outdoor equipment.”

He said some of the nearby outdoor attractions include the Gallinas Canyon, Storrie Lake, Morphy Lake, Pecos Wilderness and Carson National Forest.

“The outdoor equipment is high quality, durable and user friendly. Our team of Highlands work study students will staff the front desk in the recreation center and also maintain the equipment,” Domínguez said.

Domínguez said the Outdoor Recreation Center will organize weekend excursions for Highlands students for every season.

“We’re starting this fall with providing weekend transportation at least twice a month for snowboarding and skiing at nearby Sipapu Ski Resort beginning in late November. Then for spring semester 2017, we’re hiring Highlands students as peer resource leaders for hiking, fishing, mountain biking and other activities,” Domínguez said.

The peer resource leaders will have the required certification for the activity. For instance, leading kayaking activities at Storrie Lake will require open water certification and leading backpacking trips will require wilderness first aid certification.

Tristan Ortega, a sophomore biology major with a minor in chemistry, was at the grand opening.

“I’m really pumped about this new Outdoor Recreation Center and think it will give students lots of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors,” said Ortega, a 20-year-old from Wheatridge, Colorado. “I can’t wait to check out a paddle board for some fly fishing.”

Blea said the Outdoor Recreation Center will connect students with each other through shared outdoor adventures.

students using knockerballs

Rick Loffredo/Highlands University
Students using knocker balls from Highlands new Outdoor Recreation Center at Melody Park Sept. 26.

“Social connectivity like this helps with student retention and will be some of the fondest memories our alumni have of their time at Highlands. The aim of the campus life initiative fee is to enhance the vibrancy of the campus experience for our students. This new recreation center will play an important role in that effort,” Blea said.

She said Domínguez did an outstanding job of getting the center up and running in a short time frame.

Blea said that the Outdoor Recreation Center will initially focus on Highlands students because they are funding the center. She said looking ahead, the university hopes to eventually offer the center’s outdoor gear to faculty, staff and the community for a nominal rental fee.

The Outdoor Recreation Center is at 917 11th St. on the ground floor of the university’s Industrial Arts Building, across from the ARMAS Center. It is open Monday – Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

For more information, contact the Outdoor Recreation Center at 505-454-3553 or outdoors@nmhu.edu