Today, Rep. Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (GA-02) and Rep. Austin Scott (GA-08) introduced bipartisan legislation which will create Georgia's first National Park. The bill, the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park Boundary Revision Act of 2014, would expand the boundaries from approximately 700 acres to over 2,000 acres; change the park's name from "Ocmulgee National Monument" to "Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park" in order to increase name recognition and draw additional visitors; and authorize a resources study to expand the park even further and include additional opportunities for hunting, camping, fishing, and other recreational activities.
"Georgia's cultural and archeological heritage runs deep in the red clay of our state," said Congressman Bishop. "Creation of Georgia's first National Park here at Ocmulgee Mounds in the Macon-Bibb area will bolster the local economy with additional tourism and help preserve the important legacy of the original inhabitants of our great state."
"Georgia continues to have one of the richest cultural heritages of any state in the country," said Congressman Scott. "By revising the boundaries of the Ocmulgee National Monument, we can continue to preserve our state's history so future generations can learn about and enjoy the different cultures that have occupied our land over the years and have made us who we are today."
"This is another game-changing effort for Macon-Bibb County, and this time, it's one that will provide decades of benefit for our region and the entire state of Georgia," said Macon-Bibb County Mayor Robert A.B. Reichert. "This is our history, and it's one that stretches back almost 17,000 years. To have a concerted effort locally get us to this point and then have our legislators work together on this Bill is a testament to our shared community desire and need to protect that history."
"I am very thrilled to see this bill introduced. It fulfills the dream that the people of Macon had back in 1934 when they talked about a 2,000 acre park," said Superintendent of Ocmulgee National Monument Jim David. "The lands included in this expansion contain important and unique archaeological resources showing the use of this area for over 12,000 years. The support shown for this expansion by not only those in the Macon area but throughout Georgia and across the country including the Muskogee (Creek) Nation in Oklahoma has been exciting to see. Many people have been working on this for years and this step by Congress is tangible progress towards accomplishing our dream."
"Today is a monumental day because this historic conservation effort will be a cultural and economic boon for Middle Georgia and the entire state," said Brian Adams, Board President of Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve Initiative, the local non-profit that has been leading the advocacy effort for this expansion for more than a decade. "So much work, by some many people, is now coming to fruition, and it is such an honor to be a part of this grand effort. To provide that type of bill in a bi-partisan fashion is something to be proud of. We are so thankful to our legislators in Washington for making this happen!"
Due to its rich history and archaeological importance, the future Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park deserves to be preserved as a lasting memorial to how individuals relate to the land and other natural resources. Its expansion and improvement would be a fitting tribute to the Native Americans who first came to this historical site during the Paleo-Indian period to hunt Ice Age mammals. The expanded park also will generate much needed tourist revenue for Macon, Georgia and the surrounding areas while educating visitors on the little known fact that different cultures have occupied this land for thousands of years. The mounds and earthlodges that the Mississippians built to serve as formal council chambers when they arrived in Macon around 900 A.D. remain intact for all to see and appreciate.
Ocmulgee National Monument was originally authorized by Congress in 1934 to protect lands commonly known as the 'Old Ocmulgee Fields,' upon which certain Indian mounds of great historical importance are located. The role of the Ocmulgee National Monument is to "present a story of many stages of prehistoric cultural development, emphasizing the influences of agriculture, the Mound Builder period, and the relationship of these various cultures to each other and to life today." If the bill is enacted, the monument would be expanded to protect additional cultural and natural resources in the Ocmulgee Old Fields. Property also would be acquired only from willing donors or sellers, subject to the availability of funding.