- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 1, 2014

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) - If things go as hoped, birds and people who like to watch them will be flocking to northeast Indiana.

Dave Fox, site manager for the Gene Stratton-Porter State Historic Site near Rome City, has been helping communities in Allen, DeKalb, Noble and Steuben counties apply for recognition as Bird Town Indiana communities.

“We are trying to get them known as great places to go birding,” said Fox, who also is natural history section manager for the state’s Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites.

Fort Wayne, through Fox’s work, recently became the fifth community statewide to be named a Bird Town site. If follows Geneva and Rome City in this area, Chesterton in northwest Indiana and Nashville in Brown County.

Another northeast Indiana community plans to announce its Bird Town recognition April 20, Fox told The News-Sentinel (https://bit.ly/1s2SouA ).

The Bird Town Indiana program is sponsored by the Indiana Audubon Society. It is designed to recognize communities that demonstrate “an active and ongoing commitment to the protection and conservation of bird populations and habitat,” it says on the program’s Web page.

As part of the application, the community must provide information about a habitat that has been made available to birds as well as programming offered to educate people about birds and conservation.

Fox approached the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department about applying for Bird Town Indiana recognition.

Meeting the requirements was simple, he said.

The city parks department, Allen County Parks Department, ACRES Land Trust and Little River Wetlands Project have all worked to preserve and restore wildlife habitat in the Fort Wayne area, Fox said. All also offer many educational programs for schools and local residents.

For example, the city’s Rivergreenway system provides a lot of bird habitat along local rivers, he said. The Allen County Parks Department has Fox Island and Metea parks, and ACRES has several nature preserves in Allen County.

The Little River Wetlands Project’s restoration of Eagle Marsh also has been a valuable addition to the bird habitat available around the city.

“In a very short time, it has gotten to be a very critical resting area for (migrating) waterfowl,” Fox said.

Other important bird habitats in Fort Wayne include wooded areas at Franke and Foster parks, Lindenwood Nature Preserve and the Fort Wayne Wastewater Treatment Plant’s terminal pond, which contains the cleanest water and doesn’t freeze over during the winter, said Jim Haw, a board member of the local Stockbridge Audubon Society.

Any substantial woodlot, grassy field or pond will be valuable to birds, especially those migrating through this area in the spring and fall, Haw said.

City and county parks departments and conservation groups all offer educational nature programs. Some also participate in bird counts, offer programs on reducing invasive species of plants and insects, and more.

Fox plans to leave it up to Bird Town communities to put this area on the bird-watching map. But he sees potential for significant economic impact.

Birders will travel long distances for good bird watching, especially if rare species are seen in an area, he said.

After more communities earn the Bird Town designation, he believes Allen, DeKalb, Noble and Steuben counties can promote themselves as a bird-watching corridor. That would include producing a guide to the area featuring information about Bird Town communities and good places for seeing birds, as well as details about nearby restaurants and shopping.

If the plan works, those communities can build birding into a financial nest egg.


Information from: The News-Sentinel, https://www.news-sentinel.com/ns

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