Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, a mere 20 minutes from the steel and concrete economic dynamo that is modern Atlanta, you can find a quiet refuge where history and natural beauty still exist side by side.
I speak of the area around Arabia Mountain which contains ecosystems home to endangered species, historic structures and archaeological sites. Its proximity to Atlanta makes it accessible to millions of Americans, but also puts it in danger of urban sprawl.
No strip mall should obliterate the ancient soapstone quarry which attracted Native Americans over 5,000 years ago. Nor should overdevelopment mar Arabia Mountain, the granite outcropping at the center of the area. This region contains much pristine land, farmland, and the charming town of Lithonia. Lithonia, home to many fine buildings made of locally quarried granite, has a name which means "stone city." The Arabia Mountain area still has a few farms from the days when it was the heart of Georgia's dairy industry, and has remnants of the 1820s Georgia Gold Rush which predated the more famous California Gold Rush by two decades.
If we are serious about preserving this irreplaceable history and environment, we must act to designate Arabia Mountain in DeKalb County as a National Heritage Area. This designation will help preserve the endangered and rare species which live nearby and save historic buildings from the wrecking ball. It will also allow the kind of smart development which preserves our heritage while allowing the kind of development which will provide jobs and growth for this beautiful region.
Arabia Mountain and its surrounding area are the result of over 400 million slow years of geological changes. Men have made an impact for the last 7,000 years. All this could be changed forever in another decade or so of uncontrolled growth.
The need for this action has generated support from both sides of the aisle, in Georgia, and both houses of Congress. I thank Kelly Jordan, chair of the Arabia Mountain Heritage Area Alliance, Mayor Marcia Glenn, of Lithonia, Vernon Jones, CEO of DeKalb County, Mark Towe and Glen Culpepper who all have provided strong support to this effort. I also extend my thanks to Congresswomen DENISE MAJETTE, for working so hard for this designation, as well as my friend and senior Senator from Georgia, ZELL MILLER, for supporting this designation.
Vernon Jones, CEO of DeKalb County says:
Nowhere in this great nation is a project more deserving of a National Heritage Area designation than this one. This began as a concept between conservationists, neighborhood activists, landowners and concerned citizens, and over the years has grown in scope to encompass some of the richest landscape Georgia has to offer. DeKalb County citizens voted to tax themselves to support this project. This local funding mechanism was absolutely critical to move this project forward. One visit to Arabia Mountain is all the proof anyone needs to demonstrate the great impact that may be achieved by diverse groups working together to preserve a truly significant natural heritage for future generations.
He is right. Let us act now to preserve this spot for succeeded generations and designate Arabia Mountain as a National Heritage Area.