Will the Goose Pond Fish & Wildlife Area help the Greene County economy?
That question has been debated since work first began on the property many years ago.
GPFWA is an 8,000-acre property of restored wetlands and prairie that is owned and managed by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
The property -- located south and southeast of Linton -- opened in 2005 and has become a regional destination for birdwatching and waterfowl hunting. About 260 different bird species have been spotted at GPFWA.
GPFWA was created under the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and is the seventh largest project of its kind in the country.
GPFWA was paid for in part through State Wildlife Grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, donations to DNR's Nongame Fund, sales of Indiana Environmental License Plates, and contributions from Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, and other conservation groups.
Management of the property is paid for by hunting fees and taxes from the sales of arms, ammunition and archery equipment pursuant to the Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937, according to the DNR.
What has taken place in Linton and Greene County since last Wednesday offers a glimpse of good things to come.
When an Asian Hooded Crane was spotted at GPFWA last Wednesday it became major news in the birdwatching community. The birds normally nest in southeastern Russia and northern China, and winter in southern Japan.
This was a rare find.
GPFWA Property Manager Brad Feaster says over 1,000 people -- from many states -- have visited the GPFWA searching for the rare bird.
They also have searched for a place to eat, sleep, buy gas, and other needed items.
"Actually it's been huge," Rob Turpin said Monday of the increase at his businesses. "Sunday at the coffee shop it was pretty much nonstop from open to close.
"And Pizza Villa picked up too."
Turpin owns Francisco de Borja Coffee Shop and Pizza Villa in downtown Linton.
"Pizza Villa didn't pick up as much as the coffee shop, because people weren't expecting pizza when they walked into a coffee shop. But we did pick up some with Pizza Villa."
Pizza Villa's building was lost to a fire a year ago this month and has been located since then inside the coffee shop in downtown Linton.
John Hert, owner of Triple H Gun Club and The Grill On The Hill restaurant south of Linton on State Road 59, saw an increase in business as well.
"We maybe had an extra 10 or so people a day," Hert said.
"I believe it was spread out a lot around Linton. I saw a lot of people at different places around Linton. I believe (GPFWA) is a positive thing for the area."
Turpin said anytime there's a rare bird spotted at GPFWA he sees an increase in business.
"We were actually expecting it. A year ago this time was the last time they spotted a rare bird there and we saw a big increase in business," Turpin said.
A spokesperson for the Park Inn motel said they averaged between 12 and 15 rooms filled at their location since last Wednesday, and most were people working in the area.
Turpin said he's noticed an increase in business for years because of GPFWA.
"Even before the coffee shop was opened, when they first started working in the wetlands, we'd get people on the weekends (at Pizza Villa) as far back as five years ago," Turpin explained.
Turpin expects the new Pizza Villa will open Feb. 23.
"We're down to a few floors and trim work," Turpin said.
Pizza Villa hours haven't been set yet, but Turpin said "we will probably be open for lunch most days."
The restaurant will also have a full bar.