Birding Trails expanding in the state

From the article “Tourism effort takes flight” by Dennis Sherer in the Times Daily:

A tourism effort that hatched in the Shoals is taking flight statewide. The Piedmont Plateau Birding Trail in east-central Alabama officially opens Nov. 17 with 34 bird-watching sites in nine counties. It is one of eight bird-watching trails open or being developed to include every county in the state. Mark Sasser, coordinator of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources non-game wildlife program, said inspiration for the statewide network of birding trails came from the success of the North Alabama Birding Trail that opened in 2005. The North Alabama Birding Trail, which stretches from Mississippi to Georgia primarily along the Tennessee River, consists of 50 bird-watching sites, including 12 in the Shoals. The trail is being expanded to include Franklin and Winston counties. It was the second birding trail in the state. The Coastal Alabama Birding Trail opened in 2002.

“After we created the North Alabama trail, Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell said he wanted every county in the state to have at least one birding site,” Sasser said. “The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is providing technical advice for the new trails, but they are being created by the Alabama Tourism Department and local agencies throughout the state.” Two of the bird watching trails in the new initiative, the Pinewoods Birding Trail in southwest Alabama and the Black Belt Nature and Heritage Trail across the middle of the state, are open. Three other trails are in the development or planning phases.

Susann Hamlin, executive director of Colbert County Tourism and Convention Bureau, said creating birding trails throughout the state will boost tourism.”The North Alabama Birding Trail has been extremely successful,” said Hamlin, who helped spearhead the effort to create the trail. “We are constantly receiving requests for information from people who want to come to our area to see birds and other wildlife along the North Alabama Birding Trail.” Dana Lee Jennings, president and CEO of the Decatur-based Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association, said a brochure about the North Alabama Birding Trail is one of the most popular publications the organization distributes. Hamlin said the birding trail aids the local economy. She said bird watchers often stay in motels, eat at restaurants, shop and buy gas in communities they visit. A study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found Americans spent nearly $45 million in 2006 observing, feeding and photographing wildlife. The average spending per person was $798.

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