NEXT PHASE OF VIRGINIA BIRDING AND WILDLIFE TRAIL OFFICIALLY OPENS
Roanoke, VA – The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) will be officially opening the Mountain phase of the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail in an opening ceremony on Monday, September 8, in conjunction with the dedication of the Mill Mountain Greenway. The Coastal phase was opened in October 2002, and the remaining Piedmont phase is scheduled for completion in 2004. When completed, this Trail will be the first statewide wildlife trail in the United States.
The Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail is a driving trail that will provide opportunities to see a wide variety of wildlife and have a quality recreational experience. Loop trails off the main driving trail will link some of Virginia’s best wildlife watching areas for visitors to enjoy and observe wildlife; opportunities for walking and biking also exist at many of the sites. The Mountain phase spans all of Virginia west of U.S. Route 29. It includes 310 sites organized into 34 loops throughout western Virginia. Sites, which include state parks and forests, city and town parks, wildlife management areas, and privately owned lands, were assessed and selected using a number of criteria. Community support and local participation have been high throughout the development process.
The Department has developed a 200-page full color trail guide to facilitate visitor travel throughout the mountain region of Virginia. The guide includes regional and loop maps, travel directions, and loop and site descriptions. Individual copies of the guide may be obtained free by calling toll-free 1-866-VABIRDS or online through the Department’s Web site at www.dgif.state.va.us. All of the maps and site information will also be available directly on the agency’s Web site.
VDGIF launched the development of the statewide Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail in 1999. Funding from the Virginia Department of Transportation’s TEA-21 Enhancement program has been instrumental in ensuring the successful development of the mountain portion of the Trail. Fermata, Inc., nationally recognized for its work in the areas of nature-based tourism and travel, completed the individual site assessments and made recommendations for the organization of sites into loops. The firm is involved with the similar trail programs in Texas, Florida, California, Louisiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Nebraska, and the upper Mississippi River.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2001 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, more than 2.4 million individuals are spending nearly $788 million annually on wildlife-watching recreation in Virginia. The Commonwealth has one of the highest diversities of birds in the eastern United States, boasting nearly 400 resident and migratory bird species, and over 2,200 species of fish, reptiles, amphibians, mussels, crayfish, birds, mammals, butterflies, and dragonflies statewide.
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