A year ago, I wrote that Georgia is only one of a handful of states without a national park. Now that may be about to change as our two U.S. senators have introduced legislation to create a national park beginning with the Ocmulgee National Monument.
Should the legislation become reality, it would be a tremendous economic opportunity not only for Macon and Bibb County but for all Middle Georgia counties, if they prepare for it.
The park might start with the Ocmulgee National Monument, Brown’s Mount and the Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge and travel south along the Ocmulgee River. There are many archeological sites to be found and excavated to reveal the rich history of the Mississippian peoples that occupied so much of the region.
Brown’s Mount is adjacent to the Refuge and used to have pre-historic walls and ditches encircling it and had an earth lodge as at the Ocmulgee National Monument. Brown’s Mount was a Woodland era (pre-900 AD) and Mississippian site like the Ocmulgee mounds.
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Let’s not forget the rich flora and fauna species, many of which are found only in the Oaky Woods Wildlife Management Area. Oaky Woods is also habitat to a large black bear population. Understanding that hunting in the Oaky Woods WMA is important to many in our communities; it can still be permitted if the WMA is established as a National Wildlife Preserve when included in a proposed national park.
Moreover, legislation creating the national park can be written to guarantee future hunting activities should Oaky Woods be included in the national park.
The Ocmulgee Blue Water Partnership project might make it possible to have access to the coast. Folks, the possibilities are endless.
Without a doubt, there are numerous challenges to creating the park and providing tourist attractions to bring travelers to our communities. Those can be overcome if we join together to make it happen. What are the challenges?
First, I understand that often the Ocmulgee River tends to flood its banks.
Second, not all the land adjoining the river’s banks is owned by the public.
Third, all Middle Georgia local governments would need to join along with business interests, chambers of commerce, industrial development authorities and other interested groups to move the process forward.
Fourth, private investment, with perhaps some tax incentives, would be necessary to provide additional recreational activities for visiting tourists.
My vision consists of parks and dinner theaters on a scale similar to what many of you have seen at Pigeon Forge.
While these challenges exist, we must look beyond to the enormous opportunities before us if we have the energy to generate opportunities from the challenges that may be before us and generate a new future and economic engine for our communities.
A National Park in Middle Georgia would be an incredible economic engine for the region. Tens of millions of sales tax dollars and, perhaps, thousands of jobs could well be the result. Industries affected include the hospitality, restaurant, tourism, and every business operating in the midstate.
Let’s encourage our locally elected officials to work toward seeing the reality of a National Park in our midstate.