From Sin City and the Armpit of America to Bird Town

Nearby Terre Haute has had a colorful past to say the least. It was once labeled as “Sin City” by Stag Magazine in 1955, and its reputation for being open to gambling and having a busy “red light district” gained it more notoriety in 1969 with an article in Time . Comedian Steve Martin even famously quipped that Terre Haute was “the armpit of America,” and in more recent years, the city became known as the home of “Bottle Girl,” making it an internationally known city for reasons — well — it probably would rather not have earned.

The city has came a long way, though, in dumping the negativity of its past. Since those titles were attributed to the community in past years, the city-wide stench has been eliminated, and Steve Martin apologized to the city years and years ago. Lots of brand-new retail, restaurant, and office space has been created, especially on the city’s south side. The City has created a new slogan, “Terre Haute, A Level Above.” And Terre Haute has finally embraced birds now too.

For years, crows plagued the city. So much so, Mayor Duke Bennett explained in his 2010 State of the City address: “We can’t shoot them. We can’t poison them. We’ve got to figure out a way to transfer them someplace else.” Cannon and fireworks were used, and even crow patrols were formed, as written about in this article in the New York Times about Joy Sacopulos, age 72, who they called “the dame packing pyrotechnic heat.”

Now, the City of Terre Haute has earned a more positive title and can be called a “Bird Town,” a title bestowed on it by the Indiana Audubon Society. It is now part of the Indiana Birding Trail, as well. And, apparently, the pyrotechnic heat used to combat crows has been put away too.

In its recent press release, the Indiana Audubon Society said, “Indiana Audubon officially welcomed the town of Terre Haute as the 15th member on its list of Bird Towns this past week. Terre Haute with the help of the Wabash Valley Audubon joins the group of Indiana cities welcoming birders from all over.”

Modeled after the “Tree City USA” program, Bird Town Indiana works with cities and communities to recognize the work and commitment by communities that plan, develop, and implement bird conservation strategies and education on a local level. Communities must meet a minimum of seven criteria to be considered for Bird Town status, including educational programming, conservation initiatives, and governance related to birds and their protection. Town and city officials interested in pursuing Bird Town Indiana status can find the application at www.indianaaudubon.org/bird-town-indiana.

“With 2020 being the year of “staying at home”, birding is one hobby that folks can do outside by themselves or in a small family group,” says Cookie Ferguson, Bird Town Indiana Coordinator. “Many birders travel around to see the state’s vast variety of birds and they look to towns with Bird Town status for that extra special something that draws those birds.”

To learn more about Bird Town Indiana or Indiana Audubon Society and to search for programs near you, visit them on the web at www.indianaaudubon.org

Featured photo by Aleksandar Pasaric from Pexels

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