Moundville Park to serve as gateway to Black Belt eco-tourism trail

From the article “Moundville park could lead way for tourism boost” by Tommy Stevenson in the Feb. 16 edition of the Tuscaloosa News:
The Moundville Archaeological Park in Hale County is world-renowned as one of the most significant prehistoric Native American settlements in the United States. The University of Alabama, in coordination with several local, state and federal agencies and organizations, has completed the first year of a three-year project to make the park part of a four-county “eco-tourism” attraction that would encompass the rivers, wetlands and other natural features of Hale, Bibb, Dallas and Perry counties. “Everybody knows about Moundville and how it was the largest settlement in what is now America in the 13th century,” said Betsy Irwin, education outreach coordinator for the park. “But there is a lot more to this part of west Alabama and the Black Belt than just the mounds of Moundville.
“What we are working on is developing a tourism trail throughout the … counties with the park serving as a gateway, at least for the western part of the Black Belt.” In that effort, the University of Alabama’s Center for Economic Development has secured funding that placed AmeriCorps VISTA workers in each of the counties for three years beginning last February. They are coordinating their efforts with organizations and agencies as diverse as the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Alabama Historical Commission, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, the Nature Conservancy, the Auburn Rural Studio, the Rural Conservation and Development Council in each county, the West Alabama Regional Commission and the Cahaba River Society. “The name of the overall program is ‘Heritage and Eco-Tourism in Alabama,’ ” Irwin said. “And we think we can make it a major attraction for Alabama.”
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