RED ROCK State Park's Barbie Hart is the originator and organizer of the Verde Valley Birding and Nature Festival.
This year’s festival will be from April 25-27, and mark’s the event’s third annual gathering. Organizer and originator Barbie Hart said there will be even more events on top of the already prior successful ones this year.
“We have added some exciting new trips to the Agua Fria National Monument,” she said. “We will also have a beginning birding class at the Red Rock Park that includes lunch, a photography workshop and two butterfly seminars.”
The Verde Valley’s Birding and Nature Festival was started three years ago by Hart in efforts to help promote the Verde Valley’s natural resources as well as the wildlife. The idea of a birding festival came to her after a vacation she took where she discovered a booklet on a birding festival.
“I have always been interested in Ecotourism,” she said. “My job is to be the state park’s interpretive educational planner and I was trying to figure out a better way to get people to our programs. I kept reading how bird festivals promote preservation of the land and how successful the birding festival in Texas was. I was so impressed I thought, if we do this and once we start getting birders to this area and they start caring about it, locals will start caring too. I would like locals to realize what we have here.”
In addition to bringing awareness, birding festivals tend to bring dollars to their regions as bird watchers are known to spend more money and time when they travel. This is why the Cottonwood Chamber of Commerce wanted to get behind the idea; the Dead Horse State Park works under the Cottonwood Chamber of Commerce to get the job done.
Other organizations such as the Northern Arizona Audubon Society and the Verde Nature Tourism Alliance are also big supporters.
A feature story on the festival in Arizona Highways this year makes Hart believe it will be the festival’s biggest year. For this reason, she asks potential guests to register early before the classes fill up. Field trip prices range from $10 to $60 and include transportation from Dead Horse Ranch State Park, the festival’s central location.
The basic registration fee of $10 allows guests to participate in all guided walks within the park, enjoy the workshops, exhibits and booths in the park and admission to the park. Additional fees are added for specialty field-trips. Keeping field trip groups small, Hart said classes can fill up in a hurry.