Appalachian Highlands Birding Trail Launches May 12
Nine east-central Alabama counties will come together on May 12 to launch the Appalachian Highlands Birding Trail. The newly developed trail is the sixth of eight organized trails that will ultimately cover the state as birding becomes an increasingly important source of tourism revenue for Alabama.
The official trail launch will take place at 10:30 a.m. Central Time at The Canyon Center at Little River National Preserve, bringing together national and state legislators and other state representatives, as well as local officials and civic leaders from the nine counties.
Invited speakers include: Chris Kuykendall, Commissioner, Dekalb County Commission; Bill Jordan, Mayor, Fort Payne; John Dersham, Director of Tourism, Dekalb County; Thereasa Hulgan, Director of Tourism, Cherokee County; Richard Lindsey, Legislator, Alabama House of Representatives; Pete Conroy, JSU EPIC Director; Nisa Miranda, Birding Trail Project Director and Director of the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development; Keith Hudson, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
There will be Bird Watching for Beginners, Nature Observation Hike, Make & Take Hummingbird Feeders Children’s Craft, Bird of Prey Show, and other on-going learning stations.
The nine counties that make up the trail are Blount, Calhoun, Cherokee, Cleburne, Etowah, Jefferson, St Clair, Shelby, and Talladega. Three years in development, the Appalachian Highlands trail now features 38 approved sites covering an area of over four million acres. The trail website, www.alabamabirdingtrails.com, when completed, will offer detailed information about the sites and sounds of all of Alabama’s birding trails.
As a form of tourism, birding has seen significant growth both nationally and certainly in Alabama over the past several years. Statistics show that the typical birding enthusiast is older and well-educated with disposable income – just the type tourist that we welcome to this area.Alabama has perhaps the most diverse habitat in the Southeast, with a tremendous range of birds that can be seen in the state and certainly on the Appalachian Highlands Birding Trail.
Additional trail launches include Anniston Museum of Natural History on September 15; Ruffner Mountain Nature Center on September 28; Oak Mountain Interpretive Center later this summer; Talladega Mountains Natural Resource Center in October; Cheaha State Park in late fall. The trail will be marked with directional signs and there will be interpretative signs at many sites, featuring an overall trail map and information on the types of birds most commonly spotted at that site. There will also be “gateway” sites in several counties with trail maps and information pertinent to that county. In addition to birding sites, the trail map and other marketing material will feature “sidebar sites” – additional local attractions for visitors to explore while in the area.
This birding trail is not only a valuable means of attracting more visitors to Alabama, it’s also a great educational resource for our students and an opportunity for inexpensive family outings. Schools can use the trail sites for field trips and families can visit on a Saturdays, Sundays or holidays. With the signs and the available printed material, there will be plenty of information.
The birding trails project is funded by the Alabama Tourism Department, with technical assistance from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, The Alabama Ornithological Society, Birmingham Audubon and local leaders within each region. The University of Alabama Center for Economic Development (UCED) is providing project management and oversight.