EDITORIAL: A local treasure could soon be the state’s first national park

June 29, 2014 

We all know -- at least we should know -- how special a place the Ocmulgee National Monument is and the treasures within it that date back thousands of years.

Soon, if U.S. Reps. Sanford Bishop and Austin Scott get their way with the introduction of the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park Boundary Revision Act of 2014, the monument could become the only national park in the state.

This bipartisan bit of legislation would increase the monument’s boundaries from 700 acres to 2,100 -- about where the original planners in 1934 had envisioned. And there’s a caveat that could make the monument even larger.

The legislation, if passed by the House and Senate, would direct the Secretary of the Interior to initiate a Ocmulgee River Corridor Special Resource Study between Macon and Hawkinsville that would determine the “national significance of the study area” and the “suitability and feasibility of adding lands in the study area to the National Park system.”

This process doesn’t happen overnight but is another step closer to making the monument a national park. Once funds are appropriated -- another big step after passage -- the Secretary of the Interior has three years to submit the report and his recommendations to the House Committee on Natural Resources and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

In a joint release from Bishop’s and Scott’s offices, they point out that “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 occupied this land for thousands of years.”

The plan of work has been meticulously executed so far, and while most of the work to attract co-sponsors will be handled in Washington, D.C., a few encouraging phone calls and emails to the rest of the Georgia delegation in the House would not be unwelcome -- and it would be a nice tribute if this work could be completed before Sen. Saxby Chambliss takes his leave from the Senate at the end of the year.

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