For five years the Imperial Valley has been home of the Salton Sea International Bird Festival, an event that has made use of a natural resource in the Valley and built the local tourism industry. It attracted up to 1,000 people each year for a long weekend focused on bird watching.
The event has been canceled for 2002. While we do not blame the organizers for reaching the conclusion they cannot make the event happen in the coming year, it is still a big loss for the Valley.
The Salton Sea International Bird Festival put the Imperial Valley on the map for many; it opened people's eyes to what the Valley has to offer. It was an important component of the Valley's economic development efforts — building the tourism industry has been seen as one means of diversifying the Valley's economy.
Bird festival creator Jim Kuhn, who should be praised for his creativity and hard work over the year, said there just weren't enough volunteers to make the event go in 2002, even though the festival was conceived as an annual event. He said if the event is to succeed, it must have a paid executive director to run it or paid staff from existing local agencies help organize it.