Mountain Center Appalachian Highlands Birding Trail Visitor Center Opens!

Celebrate the Cleburne County gateway launch at the Mountain Center Appalachian Highland Birding Trail Visitor Center on December 1, 2012. 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 gateway opening will take place at 1:30 p.m. Central Time at The Mountain Center.  The Mountain Center is located  in Cleburne County Alabama (6751 Hwy 78 Heflin, AL). This event will be led by Jacksonville State University, Cleburne County representatives, as well as local officials and civic leaders. Events and vending are scheduled throughout the day:

  • 10:30 am   Bird Watching for Beginners -USFS (Meet Woodsy Owl)
  • 12:00 pm   Beaks, Feathers & Eggs– Renee Morrison, JSU Field Schools
  • 12:50 -1:20   Music for the Birds- Joshua Turner, Guitarist
  • 1:30 pm   Gateway CEREMONY – Pete Conroy, Director JSU EPIC; Emily Brown, Director Cleburne County Chamber of Commerce, et.al.
  • NBM Snack Corner Lunch & Snack Vending available all day on site.

On-going Learning Stations & Exhibits:

  • JSU Field Schools Wild about Birds Station (Migration Game)
  • Alabama Ornithology Society How Big Are Birds Station
  • Audubon Society All About Birds Station
  • USDA Forest Service Exhibit
  • Cleburne County Chamber of Commerce
  • Heflin PARD Activities & Programs
  • Friends of the TNF Birding Arts & Crafts
  • Cleburne County High School Bird House Sale
  • Cheaha State Park Exhibit and Activities
  • USFW Mountain Longleaf Wildlife Refuge Exhibit
  • Self-guided Tours

This is a collaborative project:
The Alabama Tourism Department has provided much of the funding for this project; The University of Alabama Center for Economic Development is providing the leadership role of facilitation; The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Non Game Wildlife Program, Jacksonville State University Field Schools and The Birmingham Audubon Society have provided institutional knowledge. The Alabama Cooperative Extensions System and Chambers of Commerce across the state have led the way in promoting and providing educational resources. Federal partners include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and others. The eight Alabama Birding Trails unify existing and potential birding sites into a series of cohesive trails that are part of a state-wide system.

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.

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 be “gateway” sites (visitor centers) 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 Birmingham Audubon Society, The Alabama Ornithological Society, and local leaders within each region. The University of Alabama Center for Economic Development (UCED) is providing project management and oversight.

For more information, contact Renee Morrison at 256-782-5697 or email rmorrison@jsu.edu

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