Ocmulgee boundary study recommends huge expansion

Staff reportFebruary 19, 2014 

Ocmulgee

The temple mound at the Ocmulgee National Monument is seen in 2010 from the swamp below the mound between the monument and the property often referred to as the Ocmulgee Old Fields.

GRANT BLANKENSHIP — gblankenship@macon.com

The Ocmulgee National Monument could expand by more than 2,000 acres if a proposal from a boundary study is implemented.

A draft of the Old Fields Boundary Study and Environmental Assessment is now available for review and comment, and a public meeting on the proposal -- for fielding comments and questions -- is scheduled for March 6, from 5-8 p.m.

Conservationists have been trying to expand the monument into a national park for years, and the boundary study is the first step in those efforts. In recent months, they announced the purchase of 679 acres of riverfront land near Bond Swamp as part of their bid. The nonprofit Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve Initiative has led the charge. The nonprofit has teamed with the National Parks Conservation Association and economic development leaders on expanding the monument from its current 702 acres in Bibb County to potentially thousands of acres between Macon and Hawkinsville.

The boundary study was to see whether an expansion is appropriate for the Ocmulgee National Monument and, if so, which properties are suitable and feasible for inclusion.

The study considers two alternative courses of action.

Under the study’s preferred alternative, the monument would be expanded by about 2,100 acres to protect additional cultural and natural resources in the Ocmulgee Old Fields. Property would be acquired from willing donors or sellers only, subject to the availability of funding.

If fully implemented, the action alternative would result in a park of about 2,800 acres.

Actual expansion of the monument could only be accomplished through passage of legislation by Congress.

Under another alternative, the National Park Service would propose that the existing monument boundary remain unchanged.

The Park Service prefers the expansion option.

Expansion of the monument “is very crucial to our efforts to attain national park status,” said Brian Adams, who helped found the Ocmulgee National Park group. “It’s crucial that the community knows about (the effort) and gets behind it.”

The study is available for a 30-day comment period that ends March 21. The document may be downloaded from the service’s Planning, Environment and Public Comment website at http://tinyurl.com/k58x4gn.

Mailed comments may be directed to: Superintendent, Ocmulgee National Monument, 1207 Emery Highway, Macon, GA 31217.

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