Black Swamp Bird Observatory –
The Biggest Week in Birding, May 4-13, has, almost by accident, become an economic asset for the region. In March, the Eastern Maumee Bay Chamber of Commerce presented its Prism Award for Community Improvement to the Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO) in Oak Harbor which organizes the week’s activities. Director Kim Kaufman said, “Who would have thought that you’d hear birdwatching and economic development in the same sentence? But we have collected a lot of data that proves the impact of bird-related tourism.” She emphasized that the primary goal for the birding festival is to generate support for habitat conservation. The economic impact on the region is a bonus.
In 2010, BSBO collected post-event economic impact data from participants in the Biggest Week in American Birding. Using visitor data collected by Ohio Division of Wildlife for roughly a one-month period between mid-April and mid-May, the BSBO estimates that the more than 50,000 birders visiting the area during that time and spent more than $19 million dollars.
In 2011, visitation climbed significantly for the same time period, with just under 64,000 visitors in the area. Data reflected visitors also stayed longer in the region and subsequently spent more, increasing the figure for the same time period to just under $29 million dollars.
The Black Swamp Bird Observatory is a member of TMACOG, and works with several regional partners to produce the biggest week May 4-13 along the southwest coast of Lake Erie with headquarters at Maumee Bay State Park. The Biggest Week is supported by the Maumee Bay Lodge & Conference Center, Lake Erie Shores and Islands (Ottawa County and Erie County Visitors' Bureau), and Destination Toledo (Lucas County Visitors' Bureau).
An extensive Biggest Week website provides lots of information about planned events. Many events require pre-registration.