Ten years ago, the area around Central Avenue just south of the Salt River was quite literally a dump, overflowing with trash and waste. A decade and millions of dollars later, 600 acres in the area has been converted into Audubon Arizona's Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area.
On Saturday, April 10, the public's invited to attend Migratory Bird Day at the restoration area, and they're going to see some big improvements to what was once a landfill of industrial waste.
"This area was really blighted," says Audubon Arizona spokeswoman Cathy Wise. "The riverbed was polluted, and there was trash everywhere. This project started ten years ago, and it cost about $6 million just to remove the landfill debris."
In addition to the massive trash removal, volunteers planted "thousands upon thousands" of trees, and the Army Corps of Engineers designed a river channel that would prevent flooding and help further curb pollution. Now that the area's been rehabilitated, it houses 16 miles of nature trails, and has become home for a variety of Arizona wildlife, including Peregrine Falcons and beavers.
Wise says more than 200 species of birds have been recorded in the Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area, and visitors will get a chance to see many of them at Migratory Bird Day, the first major public event at the new Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center.
The center, on 1 1/2 acres in the restoration area, opened last October, and houses several exhibits illustrating the diversity of Arizona's birds and plant life, as well exhibits that encourage the conservation of water. Many of the exhibits are interactive. "We want people to feel a part of the natural world," Wise says.
Visitors on Migratory Bird Day can engage in a variety of activities, including guided bird walks through the Sonoran Desert around the Audubon Center, presentations by guest speakers, photography clinics, and a kids' zone featuring crafts, game booths, and an art contest. Large birds of prey will be present, as well, courtesy of Liberty Wildlife, the Adobe Mountain Wildlife Center, and the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
The Migratory Bird Day Nature Festival runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 10, at the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center. Admission is free. For more information, call 602-468-6470.