NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – New Mexico’s Tourism Department is giving out nearly two million dollars to communities around the state to help take care of and improve local tourist attractions. ‘Destination Forward’ is the New Mexico Tourism Department’s newest grant program which just got underway this summer.

“This program was inspired because here at the New Mexico Tourism Department we believe that our job is more than destination promotion; it is destination stewardship,” said Cody Johnson, communications director with the New Mexico Tourism Department.

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Ten localities around the state, from Farmington to Roswell, were chosen to get this one-time appropriation of state funding to help with tourism-related infrastructure projects. One of those recipients is the Village of Fort Sumner in De Baca County—home to the ‘Billy the Kid’ gravesite.

There is an idea for a new exhibition there detailing the history of De Baca County—from the Bosque Redondo Memorial to Billy the Kid’s time to present day—got more than $200,000 dollars. “I hope our tourism explodes! I mean, for a small community that’s what we have to rely on is tourism. So hopefully we’ll bring in a lot of tourists and see how warm our community is decide to stay here!” says Louie Gallegos, mayor of the Village of Fort Sumner.

Gallegos said this money will also help them build ADA-compliant sidewalks through the cemetery and put up better lighting.

“Demand for travel to New Mexico has never been higher. So we want to make sure that communities can adequately manage that demand. And that comes in the form of making sure our infrastructure is maintained,” Johnson says.

In northern New Mexico, the City of Farmington was awarded the most money—$500,000—to build onto facilities at their Gateway Park creating a covered pavilion for a myriad of community events and an outdoor amphitheater near the Animas River. “This is a, kind of creating a central gathering place for the community at Gateway Park. Gateway Park currently is where our museum sits; it’s right along the river. It has a beautiful backyard kind of terrace where you can host events–you know, wedding receptions, picnics, whatever you want to do there,” said Warren Unsicker, director of economic development in the City of Farmington.

“It shows a sense of pride in the community that when people visit, they notice and they want to stay longer they want to bring their friends and they are generally quite surprised with what they find here,” Unsicker said.

Eight other communities also received funding: the City of Bayard received $50,000 for preservation plans for an historic building in the mining district; the City of Clovis received $17,000 to design, develop, and install interpretive signage at the Hillcrest Park Zoo; the City of Grants received $384,000 dollars to install grandstands at the Grants Multipurpose Arena; the City of Roswell received $100,000 dollars for the planning and installation of wayfinding and downtown gateway improvements for their main street; Curry County received $380,000 dollars to install an LED video screen at the Curry County Events Center and Fairgrounds; McKinley County received $100,000 dollars to plan and design improvements to Red Rock Park RV Campground; the Northwest Council of Governments received $100,000 dollars for the planning and development of more tourism assets along the Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway; and Sandoval County received $50,000 dollars for the renovation of an historic building at El Zocalo Plaza.

“It’s a new program but it’s also an extension of kind of a previous program that really did support and emphasize tourism development and infrastructure projects in rural New Mexico,” Johnson said.