Gainesville Ecotours, a local woman owned small business, is working with funding from Visit Florida and support from Visit Gainesville, Alachua County Audubon Society, and local ecotourism operators to plan the first annual Gainesville "Old Florida" Birding and Nature Festival to be held April 18-20, 2014 at the downtown Gainesville Hampton Inn.
"The purpose of the festival is to showcase Gainesville and North Central Florida's unique natural areas in an effort to expand nature tourism activities in the area, in turn creating nature based economic impact to the local economy," said Terri Mashour, owner of Gainesville Ecotours and Executive Director of the festival.
"We have migratory birds stopping by on their return flights back north and local or nearby life list birds such as the Florida sandhill crane, Florida scrub jay, and red-cockaded woodpecker. We also have nature photography field workshops and paddling opportunities all at unique venues such as springs, our local rivers, and the Alachua Sink at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. Our nature is still the old, laid back, natural Florida that was described in local author, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, autobiography, Cross Creek. It is found nowhere else in the world, and we think visitors will want to come and enjoy it!" Terri added
A June 2012 study by the Outdoor Industry Association found that Florida ranks second for consumer spending on outdoor recreation in the United States at $38.3 billion. The statistics found that Florida's outdoor recreation creates 329,000 jobs in the state, $10.7 billion in wages and $2.5 billion in state and local revenue. The impact ranked second only to California.
St. Augustine's festival, Florida's Photo Fest, in its 10th year last year, brought in $500,000 in economic impact to the region through visitors staying in its hotels, eating in their restaurants, shopping in their stores, and playing on their beaches. Around 65% of this economic impact was from visitors out of the region.
The Gainesville "Old Florida" Birding and Nature Festival aims to reach these economic impacts. With tens of thousands of acres of preservation land providing habitat for birds and wildlife, local springs, the Florida Museum of Natural History with its Butterfly Rainforest, Lubee Bat Conservancy, University of Florida bat houses, and being home to Cross Creek and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park along with our downtown shops and fabulous local restaurants, this festival will be a draw to birding and nature enthusiasts from around the world.
For more information, please visit: www.GainesvilleBirdingandNatureFestival.com
GAINESVILLE ECOTOURS provides guided interpretive environmental hikes in Gainesville and Northeast Florida. Activities offered include Family Nature Club, wilderness and fitness hikes, urban ecotour hikes followed by cupcakes or beer/wine tastings, nature photography workshops, letterboxing birthday parties, company retreat events, and homeschooling and scouts environmental education outings.