EDITORIAL: Time running out to share your opinion on monument expansion

March 19, 2014 

How many times have we heard the lament, “No one asked my opinion”? In our hustle-bustle lives, there are times when we’re asked about what we think, but we forget to respond. Such might be the case with the expansion of the Ocmulgee National Monument. In case you’ve not heard, there is an effort to expand the footprint of the 702-acre monument by as much as 2,100 acres. When the monument was originally designated in 1934, it was supposed to be about 2,000 acres, but as usual, money was tight and the size of the park never reached its designated size.

The effort to expand the monument has included a study that lays out what could be future plans for the monument’s expansion. A public meeting was held during the first week in March where residents had the opportunity to look at the plan and ask questions. Understanding that not everyone would be able to make the meeting, the National Park Service is soliciting comments on the plan at www.ocmulgeepark.org. Interested parties can examine the plan and comment.

So far, about 3,000 people have made their opinions known, but the comment period closes on Friday. And while 3,000 comments seems like a lot -- and it is -- those opinions represent less than 2 percent of Macon-Bibb County’s population.

The process of expanding the monument respects property rights. Owners of land would be given fair market value if they choose to sell. They can also donate their properties. No landowner would be forced to sell through eminent domain or any other process. Some parcels that could be included are owned by Macon-Bibb County and the state’s Department of Transportation, and some parcels are already being held by the Archaeology Conservancy.

While separate from the effort to expand the monument, the Ocmulgee National Park and Preservation Initiative is trying to get the monument designated as a national park. It would be the only national park in Middle Georgia.

There are certain treasures that cannot be duplicated, and the monument is full of 17,000 years of history that resides nowhere else. It’s a rich and vibrant story that people from all over the world will come to experience.

Expanding its size is the first step. However, Congress is the only body that can make the national park designation become reality. Your comments can help in both efforts.

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