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Abbreviated bird festival returning

February 16, 2002|By DARREN SIMON

Staff Writer

When the organizers of the Salton Sea International Bird Festival determined they would be unable to stage the event this year, they hoped it was a temporary end to what was meant to be an annual attraction.

Their goal was to find some way to make the event possible in 2003.

Now, thanks to an effort by the organizers of the New River wetlands project, the bird festival — at least an abbreviated version — will return sooner.

Marie Barrett, coordinator of the wetlands project, said her group will stage what will be called a bird and nature festival April 20 to coincide with Earth Day festivities organized by the Imperial Valley Regional Occupational Program.

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Barrett said she has been in contact with Jim Kuhn, creator of the Salton Sea International Bird Festival, and has his support for the new event.

She said the plan all along was to cooperate with those involved with the bird festival to include the wetlands project as part of the festival tours.

The wetlands project involves the building of ponding systems in two areas along the New River.

Those ponds collect particles from the New River and clean the water before it enters the Salton Sea. As part of the ponding project, wetlands have been created for area wildlife.

Barrett said when it was determined the bird festival would be canceled this year, the decision was made to organize a version of the bird festival.

Whereas the bird festival, created five years ago, was a weekend-long event, the event in April will be one day and will include tours of areas where people can both enjoy the prominent bird population in the Valley and the natural beauty of the area, Barrett said.

She added tours will be designed more for local residents and for the beginning bird watcher.

Kuhn said he likes the idea, adding organizers of the International Bird Festival are considering having their event one year and a more localized event such as the one Barrett and others are organizing the next year.

Kuhn created the bird festival to build the tourism industry in the Valley and promote how agriculture and nature can mix to produce positive results. His idea was supported by the area's joint chambers of commerce and the International Bird Festival was born.

The event was attended by hundreds of people from around the nation and from other countries.

However, it is a difficult event to stage each year, requiring a number of volunteers and long hours.

Kuhn said this year it wasn't possible to bring the event to fruition because adequate volunteer support wasn't available. Kuhn has said this year would be a building year for the festival, adding he wants to see it return in 2003.

Barrett added in January 2003 the American Birding Association is also planning a four-day festival in the Imperial Valley — an indication of the importance the Valley serves as habitat for migratory birds.

For the bird and nature event in April, Barrett said in the month leading up to the event there will be a number of programs scheduled for schools to build interest.

She said the goal is to have an event families can enjoy.

>> Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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