As featured in the MACON TELEGRAPH

BY LIZ FABIAN 

FEBRUARY 27, 2019

MACON, GA  – For more than eight years, Macon leaders have been working to create the midstate’s only national park.

Their effort will become a reality with President Donald Trump’s signature.

Tuesday, the U.S. Congress passed bipartisan legislation to expand the Ocmulgee National Monument from 702 acres to 2,800.

If the president signs the bill, east Macon will be home to the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park, according to a joint news release from Congressmen Sanford Bishop and Austin Scott.

Bishop, a democrat representing the 2nd congressional district from southwest to middle Georgia, said the mounds are a unique cultural and archaeological treasure for the state and nation.

“There are few if any historic sites in the United States that have evidence of continuous human habitation from when the first nomadic people came to North America to hunt Ice Age mammals,” Bishop stated in the release.

An earth lodge and burial mounds built after the Mississippians arrived around 900 A.D. are intact on the site.

Bishop has been working at least since 2014 with his republican colleague Scott, who represents the 8th District stretching from Macon to the Florida border.

“I am very pleased that the House and Senate have now both passed legislation to expand and designate the Ocmulgee National Monument as a national historical park, further protecting the ancient lands and creating more opportunities for Georgians and tourists from across the country to learn more about our state’s rich history,” Scott stated in the release.

National Parks Conservation Association senior program manager Chris Watson applauded the efforts of legislators who continued to push for passage of the Natural Resources Management Act that provides protection for more than two million acres of public lands, including the additional 2,098 acres in Macon.

Watson called the Ocmulgee mounds one of America’s most important archaeological landscapes.

“Its history is linked to the first people to arrive in the southeast,” Watson stated in a news release. “Not only is this place rich with history and cultural artifacts dating back 17,000 years, the expanded national park landscape provides critical urban green space and wildlife and migratory bird habitat.”

The passage of the bill almost came too late for Ocmulgee Superintendent Jim David, who has already postponed his retirement in hopes the measure would pass.

David and Brian Adams, president of the Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve Initiative, have found it tough to stay optimistic after years of defeat.

The monument was originally authorized by Congress in 1934 and the current boundary revision act has the support of the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes representing over 500,000 Native Americans throughout the United States.

The bill also authorizes a study to explore the possibility of adding hunting, fishing and camping on the expanded site.