Isakson, Chambliss introduce Ocmulgee national park bill in Senate

pramati@macon.comJuly 14, 2014 

Bartram

People walk the trail between the Earth Lodge and the Great Temple Mound at Ocmulgee National Monument in 2011.

JASON VORHEES/THE TELEGRAPH — jvorhees@macon.co

A bid to upgrade the name of the Ocmulgee National Monument has moved to the U.S. Senate.

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., introduced a bill late last week that, if passed, would change the name of the monument to the Ocmulgee National Historical Park.

The bill, co-signed by Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., mirrors a similar measure called the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park Boundary Revision Act of 2014. It was introduced in Congress late last month by Reps. Austin Scott, R-Ga., and Sanford Bishop, D-Ga.

Besides changing the park’s name, the bills would expand the park’s acreage from about 700 acres to more than 2,000 acres. The bills also would authorize a study about further expansion of the park between Macon and Hawkinsville that could increase its size to more than 40,000 acres if the results determine that land between the cities should be designated for the park.

Should that happen, Ocmulgee would become Georgia’s first national park. Any land acquired for the park would come from willing donors or sellers.

“Preserving the rich historical and archaeological heritage of one of Georgia’s oldest historic landmarks will provide an economic boost for Middle Georgia’s tourism industry and give visitors a chance to experience the legacy of Georgia’s indigenous inhabitants,” Isakson said in a release.

“The Ocmulgee National Monument is a remarkable piece of our history that deserves to be preserved and celebrated,” Chambliss added. ... By expanding the monument’s boundaries and designating the space as a national park, Americans from all over the country will be able to experience 17,000 years of continuous human history right here in Georgia.”

The monument’s history goes back that far, to when Native Americans migrated to the midstate during the Paleo-Indian period to hunt mammals. The Ocmulgee National Monument was originally authorized by Congress in 1934 to protect lands commonly known as the Old Ocmulgee Fields, where Indian mounds of great historical importance are located.

Local officials hope that both bills will be passed by their respective legislative bodies and signed into law by the end of the calendar year.

Once the study is authorized, officials said they think it will take about two years to complete.

Should the bills pass, the name change to “national historic park” -- not the same as a national park designation -- is designed to attract more tourists and increase name recognition.

According to the National Park Service website, a national park is defined by containing a variety of resources and encompasses large land or water areas to help provide adequate protection of the resources.

By comparison, a national monument is intended to preserve at least one nationally significant resource. It is usually smaller than a national park and lacks its diversity of attractions.

Should Ocmulgee National Monument eventually become a national park, officials believe it would be a great tourism draw and economic driver for the midstate.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call at 744-4334.

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