By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

Since its inception, Keizer Rapids Park has gotten an amphitheatre, miles of trails and even a dog park.

The birds were there before. But soon the park will be getting significant recognition for its ornithological diversity.

Joel Geier, a project coordinator for the Willamette Valley Birding Trail, said Keizer Rapids Park will be added to its next map as an officially-endorsed designation.

Geier was there last Wednesday, May 5, as part of a National Park Service tour of the park.

The Western tanager, shown above, is a species that can be spotted at Keizer Rapids Park. Photo courtesy naturepicsonline.com

“What I noticed being there was actually what I heard,” Geier said. “When you’re in the forest you’ll hear  lot of bird songs, which happens in that kind of habitat – a multi-layered high canopy forest.”

The gravel bar on the Willamette River will likely be of the most interest to birdwatchers, Geier said. Among the more spectacular bird species there are the bright-yellow Western tanager, and he said the black-headed grosbeak makes itself known.

“It’s extremely loud when it sings,” Geier said.

Councilor Richard Walsh, who has championed the park for almost a decade, said such a designation has tangible benefits. According to the federal Departments of Commerce and the Interior, some 23 million people are active birdwatchers, going away from home to do so. In addition, their statistics show a birdwatcher spends an average of $37 per day on trip spending, and the industry contributes $45.7 billion per year overall.

“That’s important because, along with Keizer Compass, the vision is we’re trying to bring tourism to Keizer,” Walsh said. “And the birding industry is one of the fastest-growing recreational industries out there.”

Earning praise

Keizer Rapids Park has become something of an example “of how to do it right,” Walsh said, when it comes to federal assistance with local parks.

Last week officials from the NPS from the Pacific West region – which includes California, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, Idaho and Nevada – stopped by the park.

The National Park Service contributed some $250,000 from its Land and Water Conservation Fund for the park, and provided architects for a community charette, where attendees told officials what they wanted in the park.