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Tamarac could be part of international birding trail

More than a shared border could eventually link Minnesota to Canada.

A group from Manitoba, Canada, made a few stops along the Pine to Prairie Birding Trail -- with a stop in Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge on Monday -- to get ideas on making their own birding trail. Looking into the future, they are hoping to connect the Manitoba trail with the Minnesota trail, making the first international trail from the United States to Canada.

At a stop in Tamarac, the group visited with park manager Barbara Boyle about the benefit to the park being on the Pine to Prairie Trail.

She said Tamarac, made up of 43,000 acres, shows a good "diversity of wildlife and habitat. We're a great tourist destination for people to see trumpeter swans."

She said since Tamarac isn't visible off the main road, the park needs to promote the unique features of the park to draw people in.

She added that it is "tremendously" helpful for Tamarac to be a part of the Pine to Prairie trail system as well. Legally, the park can't spend money on advertising, so this is a perfect way for Tamarac to get its name out to the public without spending money on advertising.

One of the Canadian visitors, Rick Hurst, head of design with Manitoba Parks, said the visits have been very helpful to him for getting ideas for landscape architecture.

"We're looking at facilities and what's along the trail and accessible to people," he said as the purpose of the trip.

He said the second day of the trip, the group would be looking at marketing, wildlife management and tourism. They had also visited Rydell Park earlier in the day.

Jan Collins, who headed the group, said they were there to "learn more about how Minnesota promotes wildlife viewing sites."

He said Manitoba is receiving capital dollars for a wildlife program, and the group was there to get ideas on how to market it and promote Canada's wildlife, like polar bears, snakes and waterfowl.

Some of the unique features of Tamarac include a large number of waterfowl.

The park, which was established in 1938, also shares a portion of its land with White Earth Reservation. Wild rice harvesting is still done on Tamarac's lakes. Boyle said about 5 percent is harvested, and the remaining is left for waterfowl to eat.

Tamarac is also a part of the annual Bird Festival. At next year's Bird Festival, David Allen Sibley will be the featured speaker.

Collins, a tourism development consultant with the Department of Culture, Heritage and Tourism, also said he's looking to learn how to connect the local communities with the wildlife sites.

By creating the sites, it would create employment opportunities as well, he added.