A bid to turn the Ocmulgee National Monument into Georgia’s first national historical park could gain ground next week.
U.S. Reps. Sanford Bishop and Austin Scott are scheduled to address a hearing on the bill at 10 a.m. Tuesday. It’s a session of the House of Representative’s Federal Lands Subcommitttee, which reports to the Committee on Natural Resources.
Officially titled the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park Boundary Revision Act of 2015, the bill aims to redesignate the national monument, expand the current boundaries to include a total of about 2,800 acres, and administer a special study by the Department of the Interior.
“It’s a noncontroversial bill,” said Jim David, Ocmulgee’s superintendent. “The odds, I think, are very good of it passing in 2015.”
The hearing is just one part of the legislative process, of course, and the proposal still would need House and Senate approval down the road. But many such measures never make it this far, said Brian Adams, president of the Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve Initiative.
If the bill passes out of subcommittee, which Adams hopes will happen unanimously, it will be that much closer to fruition.
“Every step is worthy of excitement,” Bishop said of the numerous congressional hurdles.
The bipartisan bill has survived so far despite a period of stagnation after it failed to get a hearing late last year.
Bishop and Scott re-introduced the bill in January.
The most important aspect of the bill, David said, is the preservation of an archaeological site. Bishop agreed.
“There are few places on earth like Ocmulgee, where artifacts from the Ice Age to the modern day can be found,” he said in a statement. “Creation of Georgia’s first national historical park here at Ocmulgee mounds ... will bolster the local economy with additional tourism and help preserve the important legacy of the original inhabitations of our great state.”
Congress authorized the classification of the Ocmulgee National Monument in 1934. Residents could only gather enough funds during the Great Depression to purchase 678 acres by 1936.
Now the property will rely on donations from public and private donors or sellers for expansion.
Last October, the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole Nations), which represents more than 500,000 Native Americans, gave their official support of the bill.
“If we can get it completed this year, it will be a long time coming,” Adams said.
To contact writer Conner Wood, call 744-4489.