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News from the CLARKTON BRIDGE ALLIANCE - October 4, 2004

Travel and outdoor writers visit Clarkton Bridge and other “watchable wildlife” stops in Southside; Tour follows dedication ceremonies for statewide Birding Trail

At dedication ceremonies at Monticello on Thursday, September 30, Virginia’s Secretary of Natural Resources Tayloe Murphy, Secretary of Transportation Whitt Clement, and Virginia Tourism Corporation President Alisa Bailey hailed the partnership that created the nation's first statewide Birding and Wildlife Trail.

Sponsored by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail, includes 65 "driving loops" with a total of 665 stops where visitors can view birds and wildlife in their natural habitat. Four state agencies, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Virginia Tourism Corporation, Department of Conservation and Recreation and Department of Transportation worked with local governments, landowners, and not-for-profit organizations to establish and promote the tourism and recreation initiative.

Nature tourism and heritage tourism are two of the strongest and fastest growing sectors of the travel industry, Ms. Bailey said. The statewide trail was carefully developed to appeal to both types of visitors, David Whitehurst, Director of Wildlife Diversity for the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, noted. Featured stops include historic sites as well as natural areas.

Each driving loop is designed to encourage overnight stays of one to two nights, he said. Overnight stays are a key strategy for helping communities to maximize the economic benefits of tourism. “In developing the Trail, we strived to create a marketing platform to help local groups to expand their own tourism promotion efforts.”

Following the opening event, Virginia Tourism Corporation and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries sponsored a three-day tour of selected trail stops for travel and outdoor writers. On Saturday they visited three of the 10 stops on the Staunton River loop, Clarkton Bridge, Red Hill, Staunton River Battlefield State Park.

Clarkton Bridge, closed to traffic since 1998 and slated for demolition by the Department of Transportation, gained a demolition reprieve last year after local citizens nominated it as a stop on the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail. The historic bridge, spanning the Staunton Scenic River, will become a key link in a regional network of trails for walking, bicycling, canoeing, horseback riding, and enjoying nature.

The multi-purpose trail system is one element of a larger strategy to develop and promote recreation and tourism initiatives along the entire length of the Staunton River corridor.

Other Southside Virginia stops visited by the travel and outdoor writers included Greenfield Farm and New Directions Farm/Spring Creek Lake in Charlotte County, Briery Church in Prince Edward County, and Hidden Pond Farm in Lunenburg, all on the Roanoke Meherrin Summit loop, and Falkland Farms and Staunton River State Park in Halifax County on the Dan River loop.

The Piedmont section of the trail, dedicated last week, is the final of three trail sections. The Mountain Area trail opened in 2003 and the Coastal Area trail in 2002. Tour guides for each section of the Virginia Birding and WildlifeTrail are available at no charge by calling 866-VABIRDS or visiting the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries website at www.dgif.virginia.gov.

At left, five year old Matilda Paterson of Keysville shows David Whitehurst of DGIF where to look for birds along the Staunton Scenic River. Jeff Trollinger, also of DGIF, P.K. Pettus of the Clarkton Bridge Alliance, and Richard Lewis of Virginia Tourism Corporation listen as former Delegate Ted Bennett explains to writer Paul Sullivan how restoring historic Clarkton Bridge can help to launch a regional initiative for tourism and recreation in the Staunton River corridor.

Travel and outdoor writers visited historic Clarkton Bridge and other stops on the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail last week on a tour sponsored by the Virginia Tourism Corporation and Department of Game and Inland Fisheries following opening ceremonies for the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail at Monticello on September 30.