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Solutions for Rural Development Webinar ~ Economic Trail Blazing: How to Harness Backyard Ecotourism

Arizona is a state rich with outdoor beauty and recreation offerings. Many of the state's surrounding rural area's have started looking towards these natural offerings as a means to generate tourism as an economic driver in their communities. This month the webinar will focus on the the Arizona Trail (AZT), a 800 mile trail that stretches the state of Arizona from the Utah to Mexico border, and what the trail system has done for communities surrounding the trail. We will hear from 3 speakers, representing various gateway communities of the trail, from all around the state. 

Attendees will learn:

  • How and why outdoor recreation is a sustainable goldmine for rural communities. 
  • What three items are needed for sustainable economic prosperity.
  • How to personalize your backyard ecotourism.
  • What are the various ways these communities have benefitted from the trail.
  • What collaborative projects have been happening across communities to market the trail.
  • How to engage interest and education to your community for further marketing and maintenance support. 


Matt Nelson: Nelson has been the Executive Director of the Arizona Trail Association since 2012. Among his contributions to the Arizona National Scenic Trail over the past 18 years are; trail design, archaeological surveys, volunteer trail construction, and explorations of the AZT on foot, mountain bike and horseback. Matthew has more than 500 published articles to his credit and is the primary author of Your Complete Guide to the Arizona National Scenic Trailand the Arizona Trail Junior Explorer Handbook. He lives in the Sierrita Mountains west of Tucson. 

Tamara Morken: Morken co-owns and operates a Restaurant and Brewery in the Rim Country, THAT Brewery, since June 2004. She has actively been involved with many aspects of the community to help drive business to the area. Her biggest passion has been to increase economic impact in their rural community of Pine, Strawberry, & Rim Country by promoting outdoor activities. She has a Bachelor of Science in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Western International University. Her 9 years of corporate experience included customer service, contract negotiations, sales, marketing development and employee event planning. She is a 3rd generation Phoenix native.  

Mila Besich-Lira: Mila is the Mayor of Superior and owner of Miracle Executive Services. Early in her career Mila helped to develop the Legends of Superior Trails Inc. as Executive Director with the Copper Corridor EDC she works with the local gateway communities to help them connect with resources to enhance their gateway communities. She is one of the "same ten people" making a difference in her community, a mom, and proud to say that she is "Rural by Choice". You can learn more about her at