Tourism Increases in Brinkley Thanks to Ivory BIlled Woodpecker

May 21, 2006 -- Posted at 9:39 p.m. CDT

BRINKLEY, AR -- The rediscovery of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker in February of 2004 has put Brinkley, Arkansas on the map for many bird watchers around the world.

After more than two years, the effects of the discovery can still be seen all over town.

"We have people just stopping by. People are getting off the interstate that probably wouldn't have before. People know where Brinkley is that didn't know," said Sandra Kemmer, Executive Director of the Brinkley Chamber of Commerce.

The discovery has increased tourism in the small delta town.

"We've had lots and lots of people from all over the world. In fact, we've had people from Mexico, from Austria, from England... just people from all over," said Kemmer.

The increase in tourism has helped local businesses stay afloat.

"When our motels were wondering, 'how am I going to keep the doors open?', now, there's no problem. With the restaurant owners that were thinking about closing early or opening late, now they're opening their doors at 5:00 a.m. to accommodate people going bird watching," said Kemmer.

New businesses have popped up in Brinkley that are solely dedicated to the Ivory Billed Woodpecker. One such shop is the Ivory Bill Nest Gift Shop that features paintings of the famed woodpecker by local artist Rita Clements.

"I've painted the Ivory Bill until I could almost close my eyes and do it... I really can. I've enjoyed it," said Rita Clements.

Everywhere you go in Brinkley there's evidence of the support the town has for the rumored bird.

Gene's Restaurant and Barbeque has added new items to their menu since the discovery of the bird. Those menu items include: the "Ivory Bill Burger", the "Ivory Bill Salad", and the "Ivory Bill Hot Fudge Brownie".

"The Ivory Bill Burger is two patties, with a sesame seed bun, and mozzarella cheese. The Ivory Bill Woodpecker is a brownie with whipped cream, and a cherry on top, so, it all resembles a woodpecker," said restaurant owner, Gene Depreist.

Even if the Ivory Billed Woodpecker is never seen in the delta again, Kemmer says she'll still be happy.

"Even if the woodpecker doesn't live here anymore, he has brought us a gift, just in the fact that people will know where we are. Now, people know where the bayou is, and where the thousand-year-old Cyprus trees are... and they'll be back.

Hopefully, they'll be back next year, for the 2nd Annual Ivory Billed Woodpecker Celebration in February.