Nevadan at Work: Foundation executive helps promote valley’s outdoor wonders

Mauricia Baca always knew her life would be centered on the outdoors.

Growing up in New York City, Baca spent many hours exploring Manhattan.

"One of my favorite things to do was to walk," Baca said. "I called them urban hikes."

Baca, 41, is executive director of the Outside Las Vegas Foundation, a nonprofit organization aiming to connect Southern Nevada residents with outdoor areas and public lands.

Baca became executive director in January 2010. She quickly became an expert on Southern Nevada’s outdoors and the area’s environmental issues.

The Las Vegas Valley has more than 600 miles of trails that have been branded as "Neon to Nature." Through the foundation’s website, a person can locate a nearby trail. There is no excuse, she said, for remaining indoors.

"All you need is a pair of shoes," Baca said. "You have to pay money to join a gym."

Baca’s love for the outdoors was manifested in summer jobs with the National Park Service while earning a degree in environmental studies at Vassar College. She earned a law degree from the City University Law School in New York.

She used both degrees as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington D.C.

Serving in the Wildlife and Marine Resources Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division, Baca tried environmental law cases involving the Endangered Species Act, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act.

Baca moved to Nevada in 2005 and joined The Nature Conservancy in Reno. Her initial job was managing the Truckee River restoration project.

The move West was an eye-opener.

"On my first day on the job, we were working across from the Wild Horse Saloon, which is a brothel," Baca said. "I called my friends back home and told they wouldn’t have believed the day I just had."

After a year in Reno, Baca went south to run the Nature Conservancy’s efforts in Southern Nevada, including oversight and support of projects in Upper Las Vegas Wash, the Muddy River, the Mormon Mesa and the Spring Mountains.

Outside Las Vegas has a board of directors made up of business leaders and local government representatives.

As a New Yorker, Baca gained an appreciation of the outdoors by visiting Central Park. One of her goals in Las Vegas to help inner-city children experience the outdoors and Southern Nevada’s trails system.

"That resonates with me," Baca said. "That’s why it’s important to emphasize the urban trails and the beautiful natural areas surrounding them. These kids may not be able to get to Red Rock, but they can get to local parks and local trails. You can have a nature experience even on local trails."

Question: Was your family supportive of your interests in the outdoors and the environment?

Answer: My parents were very encouraging. I spent a summer in Crater Lake National Park and I spent a couple of summers working in California in the eastern Sierra doing high alpine meadows restoration.

Question: What surprised you about the Las Vegas area?

Answer: There is so much more than just the Strip. If you’re a visitor or a resident, you can get a phenomenal experience outdoors. Beyond Red Rock and the Lake Mead area there are miles and miles of trails throughout the valley. You can’t find a concentration like this anywhere else in the country.

Question: What is the Outside Las Vegas Foundation’s goal?

Answer: The idea behind the organization is to enjoy, value, and protect. We want to get people out there enjoying our natural resources, the parks and the trails. We want people to learn to value them. The next step is to protect them. I think of it as a way of creating community and building community through open spaces and trails.

Our board chairman (Howard Hughes Corp. executive Tom Warden) has said that in surveys, 89 percent of (Summerlin) residents list the trails as their favorite amenity. That shows it makes good business sense to develop trails within a community.

Question: What steps has the organization taken to promote outdoor activities?

Answer: We partnered with the Health District to inventory all the different trails. There are search functions on both our website and the Health District’s to get as much information as possible to people.

The search engine on our website has very in-depth descriptions of the different trails so you get a nice flavor of what the hike will be like. This database is put together to make sure everybody has consistent information. Our former executive director walked all the trails during the inventory, and he lost 27 pounds in the process. He was like a poster child of what great exercise hiking provides.

Out next goal is to develop better signage for the trails, such as quarter-mile and half-mile markers so you have an idea how far you have walked.

Question: What more can be accomplished with Las Vegas’ trails system?

Answer: It’s really only been the past five years that there has been an explosion in the network of trails. Much of this was made possible by the efforts of the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act. Our goal now is to increase connectivity. We have all these trails established but we still don’t have full connectivity between them. What we’re looking at doing now is filling in those gaps.

Question: What efforts have you taken to expose inner-city children to the outdoors?

Answer: A lot of inner-city kids don’t have much of an access to these areas. Studies have shown that kids who get a chance to get outside do better in school.

The Rainbow Dreams Academy (a Las Vegas charter school) approached us about how their kids don’t have field trip opportunities. Our organization was able to take the fourth- and fifth-graders to the Springs Preserve. We also took them out to see Lake Mead. Next, we’re taking them to Floyd Lamb State Park.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871. Follow @Howard Stutz on Twitter.

Business
Dig This opens new location In Las Vegas
Remember when you were a kid and played with construction toys in the sand box? Dig This Las Vegas has the same idea, except instead of toy bulldozers, you get to play with the real thing. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Town Square developer Jim Stuart building again in Las Vegas
Las Vegas’ real estate bubble took developers on a wild ride, something Jim Stuart knows all too well. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Salon opens at Veterans Village
T.H.E. Salon, owned by Nicole Christie, celebrated their opening at the Veterans Village with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
Southwest Airlines considering Las Vegas-Hawaii flights
Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly says the airline is "very focused" on Hawaii. Hawaiians have a strong presence in Las Vegas.The city’s unofficial status is “Hawaii’s ninth island.” In 2018, at least 2,958 people from Hawaii moved to Nevada. Of those, 88.7 percent moved into Clark County, according to driver license surrender data. According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, 310,249 people came to Las Vegas from Hawaii in 2018.
Fewer Nevadans are celebrating Valentine's Day
Fewer Nevadans are celebrating Valentine's Day. About 1.2 million Nevadans are expected to celebrate this year, a 5 percent drop from 2018. A growing number of people consider Valentine’s Day over-commercialized. Others weren’t interested in the holiday or had nobody to celebrate with. But spending is expected to rise. Those who do celebrate are buying for more people. The average American is expected to spend about $162 this year for Valentine’s Day, a 57 percent jump from a decade prior. Katherine Cullen, director of industry and consumer insights at NRF
Foreclosures of mansions in Las Vegas
Las Vegas was ground zero for America's foreclosure crisis after the housing bubble burst. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rick Helfenbein talks about the impact of tariffs on the clothing industry
MAGIC fashion convention showcases men's clothing trends
The MAGIC fashion convention has come to Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center to showcase some of the hottest clothing trends for men. (Nathan Asselin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Allegiant Air flight attendants learn how to handle a water landing
Field instructor Ashleigh Markel talks about training prospective flight attendants for Allegiant Air getting live training with a raft for a water landing at the Heritage Park Aquatic Complex in Henderson on Monday. (John Hornberg/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Smith & Wollensky CEO Michael Feighery speaks
Smith & Wollensky CEO Michael Feighery speaks about the new Smith & Wollensky restaurant coming to the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian in Las Vegas.
Smith & Wollensky CEO Michael Feighery speaks
Smith & Wollensky CEO Michael Feighery speaks about the new Smith & Wollensky restaurant coming to the Grand Canal Shoppes at The Venetian in Las Vegas.
Smith & Wollensky CEO Michael Feighery talks about Las Vegas return
Michael Feighery, CEO of Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group, discusses the restaurant's upcoming return to the Las Vegas Strip.
Apartments to Come to Hughes Center
Developer Eric Cohen discusses his current building project at the Hughes Center office park in Las Vegas, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019. Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Stratosphere to rebrand to The STRAT
The Stratosphere, a 1,150-foot-tall property in Las Vegas will be renamed The STRAT Hotel, Casino and Skypod.
Local designers’ picks for the Las Vegas Market
The trends that local interior designers are noticing at the Las Vegas Market this year. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trends in bath products at Las Vegas Market
Camille Herd, the showroom manager for European Bath Kitchen Tile & Stone, talks about the popularity of free-standing bath tubs. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Kitchen trends at Las Vegas Winter Market
Las Vegas Winter Market displayed kitchen trends that mirror common dining accessories at Strip eateries. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Emerging trends in gifts at Las Vegas Market
Julie Smith Vincenti, curator for the First Look showroom tour on gifts and lifestyle, talks about the emerging trends in those categories for this season. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
Las Vegas house prices are rising
Southern Nevada home prices were up 12 percent year-over-year in November.
Caesars Republic Scottsdale
Caesars Entertainment Corp. is building its first non-gaming hotel in the United States in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Caesars Entertainment Corp.)
Interior designer Mikel Welch talks about trends for Las Vegas Market
Interior designer Mikel Welch, who also is the on-camera designer for TLC’s Trading Spaces, discusses the trends he sees for the 2019 Las Vegas Winter Market. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae
SHOT Show 2019: MEGGITT Virtual Training
MEGGIT showcases its virtual training system at SHOT Show 2019 in Las Vegas.
MGM delivers 700 meals to TSA workers at McCarran
Chefs at Garde Manger at Mandalay Bay provided 700 meals to federal employees who are affected by the government shutdown. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
SHOT Show 2019: A "nonsemi-automatic” weapon
Brandon Dunham of Nevada-based Franklin Armory show off the company’s new rifle prototype it calls a “nonsemi-automatic” weapon. The gun does not use a gas system to fire.
Las Vegas-based concrete repair company knows how to beat the heat
ART Concrete Solutions, a Las Vegas concrete-repair firm, addresses the challenges of construction in the extreme heat and sun of Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas based company brings color to concrete in the desert heat
Semco Modern Seamless Surface, a Las Vegas surface engineering company, knows how to put color in concrete construction in the Vegas heat. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Fun photo booth at World of Concrete
World of Concrete show at the Las Vegas Convention Center sponsored by DeWalt gives conventioneers a chance for photos with giant tools. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
SHOT Show 2019: Laserstar Technologies
Laerstar Technologies showed off their laser engraving machines, that can be used to personalize anything from guns and knives, to medical tools and household items. (Mick Akers/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
World of Concrete Show has big equipment on display
World of Concrete Show has big equipment on display at the Las Vegas Convention Center including an impact crusher, concrete pump and a self-erecting portable concrete batch plant. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Shot Show 2019: Kalashnikov USA shows off new products
Jonathan Mossberg of Kalashnikov USA talks about new products on display at Shot Show 2019 in Las Vegas.
ad-high_impact_4
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing