Our View: Bird-watching grant: Good seed money

March 07, 2007 12:00 am

Spending money for marketing Del Norte County to bird-watchers is no bird-brained idea. It's simply a good survival strategy in a world vying for tourists' dollars.

So kudos to the Crescent City staff for landing a $16,300 grant to create a brochure and Web site aimed at bringing bird watchers here. The City Council approved spending the grant money Monday night.

Del Norte County may not boast Orlando's amusement parks, Vegas' casinos or Palm Springs' resorts. But we do possess a number of natural gems that a number of people are willing to spend money to see. Birds are one of them. We have more species of birds in the county than the entire state of Oregon boasts. Some of them are unique to our redwoods ecosystem. Many are simply stopping over on their annual migrations north and south.

To some, bird watching may sound as exciting as watching a film of a snail in slow motion. But don't snicker too long. Bird watching is the fastest-growing outdoor recreational activity in the country, according to the National Survey on Recreation and the Environment. Indeed, some 65 million Americans participated last year in bird watching activities, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates. There are now more than 300 birding festivals in the nation.

And that means dollars. Bird watchers need a place to sleep, places to dine and gas for their vehicles. Indeed, bird watchers spent more than $5 billion last year in the communities they visited. That's $76.92 per bird watcher. If our brochures net just 212 new visitors over the next few years, we come out ahead.

Any investor will will tell you that if you want to make money, you've first got to spend it. Tapping into the bird-watching trend, given our abundance of the feathered creatures, is a low-risk investment that should yield dividends.