Geneva becomes first Indiana town to receive Bird Town designation

Authored by Jim Langham on Sep 16, 2013

East Central Regional Ecologist Ken Brunswick said on Saturday afternoon prior to the ceremony awarding Geneva the first Bird Town designation by the Indiana Audubon Society that re-developing the wetlands was the natural thing to do when he saw how crops in that area were being flooded on a consistent basis.
Brunswick had moved to the area from Ohio years ago to begin farming in the geography of the present Loblolly Marsh Reserve.
“I knew how much flooding I experienced; I couldn’t imagine how many crops my neighbors lost,” said Brunswick. “I loved birds from my youth; I had a chance to see them on the farm where I was raised.
“For me the natural thing to do was to restore that land to what it had been,” continued Brunswick. “My original goal was to restore 80 acres.”
That dream reproduced itself many times as over 1,600 acres of land is now in some stage of development to its original state, in many cases very similar to that which Gene Stratton Porter trudged through when she lived in this area.
These days, restoration of the land has meant the return of many original birds to this area, so much so, says Brad Bumgardner, president of the State Indiana Audubon Society, that state officials have taken note of the local wetland success.
“This designation as Bird Town recognition is very similar to Tree City designation,” said Bumgardner on Saturday.
The tenants of the award include bird conservation, bird population and bird education. Bumgardner said that several cities have been under consideration for Bird Town recognition, but Geneva was the first to meet the qualifications for the award.
Other towns currently under consideration for the award include Chesterton, Rome City, Connersville and South Bend.
Terri Gorney, of Friends of the Limberlost said that over 200 species of birds have recently been logged in the local area.
“Ken Brunswick did all of the hard work here. If it were not for you (Brunswick), none of us would be standing here today,” said Gorney during the award ceremonies. “Twenty years ago today everybody thought you were crazy. Today we are standing here in honor of you.”
“You will make money. Each year, nationally, over $85 million is being made in birding and bird activities,” observed Bumgardner. “You will get a slice of this. As people see this designation, they will come to see what you have here and they will eat in restaurants, stay in your community and purchase things in your community.”
For local Indiana Representative Matt Lehman, the ceremony couldn’t have come at a better time. He and his wife, Joy, had just returned from New York City where they had been to Times Square and spent several days in the Manhattan area of New York.
“There is no wildlife there. I took a picture of a bird at Central Park because they are so rare there,” said Lehman. “I could hardly wait to get back to this community. For a community to get this award is such an honor; it reflects our type of values.”
Lehman said he told someone on the trip that he could hardly wait to get home because it is a place he walks into the yard in his bare feet, feels the earth beneath his toes, enjoys the smell after the rain and stands and hear the birds sing.
“This is what this is all about,” said Lehman. “It represents what we all stand for around here.”

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