Great Plains Trail of Oklahoma; endless Opportunities for Wildlife Enthusiasts

(JET) — Oklahoma 's premiere wildlife trail is now ready for travelers! The Great Plains Trail of Oklahoma will be revealed at 4:30 p.m. on April 29, 2006 at the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge in Jet. Join the kick-off celebration, which is in conjunction with the refuge's two-day Crystal and Birding Festival.

The Great Plains Trail consists of 13 highway-based, driving loops that span the entire western portion of the state. Each loop guides travelers through areas with the best opportunities to view wildlife and includes designated stopping points on both public and private areas. The trail assists travelers in experiencing varied wildlife habitats in addition to the culture and hospitality of small towns in western Oklahoma .

A Great Plains Trail Scenic Drive Map was developed to outline each loop in detail, including terrain, types of wildlife in the area, and lodging. With stops along historical sites, the map showcases the state's rich Indian heritage and early settlements of the West. It includes opportunities to explore off-the-beaten-path travel routes and some of the most scenic and remote roads in Oklahoma .

Development of the 13 designated trails marks the combined effort of local citizens, landowners, non-profit organizations, conservation groups, government agencies, businesses and communities in western Oklahoma . The idea for the trail began five years ago during a meeting of the High Plains Resource, Conservation and Development (RC&D) group - a non-profit organized to revitalize rural Oklahoma .

“We were talking about the wildlife birding trails in Texas , and we just started brainstorming about how we could do something similar in Oklahoma ,” explained Kenny Knowles, chairman of the Oklahoma Wildlife & Prairie Heritage Alliance. “It (the trail) had meager beginnings, but one thing led to another and now we have the designated trails and a map.”

The Oklahoma Wildlife & Prairie Heritage Alliance was soon born thereafter to address the trail idea and other wildlife issues and concerns.

“People don't realize all the treasures we have in western Oklahoma ,” Knowles said. “To help sustain our way of life, we're hoping to increase tourism in the area. Any increase will be a boon to our communities.”

The trail is a collaborative effort of the Oklahoma Wildlife & Prairie Heritage Alliance, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Playa Lakes Joint Venture, Oklahoma Economic Development Authority, High Plains RC&D, Great Plains RC&D, and the Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department.

For more information on the Grand Opening Celebration, contact Trapper Heglin of the Oklahoma Wildlife & Prairie Heritage Alliance at 580.735.2323 or visit www.wildlifedepartment.com/wildlifetrails.htm. To request a copy of the trail map, visit the Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department's website at www.TravelOK.com , or call 1-800-652-6552. The map is also available at any Oklahoma Tourist Information Center .

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