If not for Philmont Scout Ranch just down the road, “Cimarron would be a ghost town,” says Judy LeDoux, mayor of this New Mexico village of 1,021 people.
A new, fascinating story in the Albuquerque Journal tells of the economic and social impact of having a national BSA high-adventure base in northern New Mexico.
Philmont Scout Ranch welcomes 23,000 participants each summer and has seen more than 1 million Scouts, Venturers and leaders pass through its gates since the first camping season in 1939.
But these troops don’t just teleport in. They come by plane, train and automobile — and spend money along the way.
Ongoing operation of the huge ranch plus the annual influx of thousands of teens and seasonal staffers pumps a lot of money into the tiny towns in this rural part of the state. It means jobs, hotel rooms, restaurant meals, taxes, grocery shopping and transportation services.
I know that to be true. Before a Philmont trek as a Scout in 2002, my crew stayed in the annex to the St. James Hotel in Cimarron. After 10 glorious days of hiking, we treated ourselves to much-deserved burgers and ice cream at Cimarron’s Cree-Mee Drive In. We ran into fellow Scouts in every shop in town.
Our troop drove to Philmont from Dallas, but about 8,000 Scouts and Scouters arrive each summer on the Southwest Chief Amtrak train (which, thankfully, is still in operation after some government squabbling).
While troops, teams and crews wait for their ride to Philmont from the station in Raton, N.M., “they hit the local supermarkets, eateries and other businesses,” according to the Journal article.
Speaking of Raton, Philmont Scout Ranch buys truckloads of hardware, lumber and auto parts from suppliers there each summer.
Cimarron doubles in size
It takes a lot of people to operate a 140,000-acre high-adventure base that draws Scouts from all 50 states to hike its rugged, scenic trails.
Philmont has 81 full-time employees and hires more than 1,100 paid seasonal employees — essentially doubling Cimarron’s population for a few months.
Like the Scouts and Scouters taking Philmont treks or spending a week at the Philmont Training Center, Philmont staff members head into town to eat and shop.
The owner of The Porch restaurant, for example, told the Journal that about 70 percent of her summer business comes from Philmont.
More than money
Philmont’s presence offers more than an economic impact.
It has proven magnetic for people like Richard J. Berry, Eagle Scout and mayor of Albuquerque.
Though he was raised in Nebraska, Berry attended Philmont in 1977 and was hooked. Philmont’s magnetism led him to choose the University of New Mexico over other schools that offered him scholarships.
“Philmont is one of the main reasons I’m in New Mexico at all,” he told the Journal.
Same story for University of New Mexico Hospitals CEO Steve McKernan, who grew up in Pennsylvania and was a Philmont staffer.
He tells the Journal that he remembers taking trips on his days off to New Mexico towns like Cimarron, Taos, Red River and Raton. He even went with some fellow staffers to see The Marriage of Figaro at the Santa Fe Opera.
Read more in the Journal story.
Photos via Philmont’s Facebook page