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Ocmulgee mounds in Macon to quadruple in size with national historical park designation

Fight for Ocmulgee National Park began years ago

Congressmen Sanford Bishop and Austin Scott expected approval for the Ocmulgee Monument expansion bill in Congress before the end of 2015. The measure finally passed Congress Feb. 26, 2019.
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Congressmen Sanford Bishop and Austin Scott expected approval for the Ocmulgee Monument expansion bill in Congress before the end of 2015. The measure finally passed Congress Feb. 26, 2019.

When the people of Macon first made an effort to preserve the majestic grassy mounds on the east side of the Ocmulgee River, there was not enough money to save it all.

It was 1934, and the United States was in the midst of the Great Depression.

Using federal money to buy the land was out of the question, so locals pooled together enough money to buy 678 acres, which was less than half of the planned acreage.

The dreams had by Maconites more than 80 years ago were fulfilled Tuesday when President Donald Trump signed into law a bill that will more than double the size of the Ocmulgee National Monument.

The bill, which expands the 700-acre park to 2,800 acres, also designates it as “Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park.”

“Expanding it will increase the number of visitors, facilitate more learning opportunities, and bolster the economy of Middle Georgia,” U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-GA, said in a news release late afternoon Tuesday. “I am grateful for the efforts that went into crafting this legislation and bringing it to passage. “

Creek, Cherokee and Choctaw Native American dancers performed for local students Friday as part of the school day program at the Ocmulgee National Monument. The Ocmulgee Indian Celebration runs Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m..

Bishop, Sens. Johnny Isakson, R-GA, David Perdue, R-GA, and U.S. Rep Austin Scott, R-GA, are among legislators who have long been pushing the bill.

Scott said it has been a “bipartisan, bicameral, and grassroots” effort to get the bill signed into law.

“This action further protects these ancient lands and creates more opportunities for Georgians and visitors from around the world to learn more about our state’s rich history,” Scott said in a news release.

Bills that would have created the park have twice passed the House only to fall in the Senate.

Last month, a bill went through the Senate first and passed by a 92-8 vote.

“I didn’t think I was going to see it happened before I retired,” Jim David, the park’s superintendent, said of his 22-year career from which he is set to retire in a few months.

“I guess I will have the honor of being the last superintendent of the Ocmulgee National Monument and the first superintendent of the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park,” David told The Telegraph. “We’ve been working on this for a very long period of time.”

The park is a prehistoric American Indian site that has been inhabited by humans for at least 17,000 years. The mounds were constructed for the leaders and elite. The expansion of the park will allow visitors to explore an area by the river that was inhabited by a much larger group of people.

The expansion was supported by the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes, which includes the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee/Creek and Seminole Nations and represents over 500,000 Native Americans throughout the United States.

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