Legislation introduced to expand, rename Ocmulgee National Monument

The National Park Service is acquiring four tracts of land for Georgia’s Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park.

WASHINGTON – Congressmen Sanford D. Bishop Jr., D-Albany, and Austin Scott, R-Tifton, reintroduced bipartisan legislation Wednesday to create Georgia’s second national historical park, entitled the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park Boundary Revision Act of 2019 (H.R. 283).

Rep. Barry Loudermilk also is an original co-sponsor of the legislation.

The legislation will expand the current Ocmulgee National Monument from 702 acres to 2,800 acres, change the name of the park from “Ocmulgee National Monument” to “Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park” to increase name recognition, and authorize a resources study to include recreational activities such as hunting, fishing and camping.

The legislation was approved by the House of Representatives in both the 114th Congress (2015-2016) and the 115th Congress (2017-2018) but was not considered by the full Senate. The bill, however, was included in a Senate omnibus parks package at the end of the 115th Congress that was not voted on largely due to timing issues. It is expected that the Senate will consider the omnibus parks legislation later this year.

“The Ocmulgee Mounds is a true cultural and archaeological treasure to Georgia and the entire nation,” Bishop said. “I am confident that this important bipartisan legislation will soon get across the finish line so that it will strengthen the current Ocmulgee National Monument and bolster the economy and cultural life of Georgia and beyond.”

Scott agreed.

“Ensuring that the Ocmulgee Mounds receive the historical recognition they deserve will have a lasting positive economic and cultural impact in middle Georgia,” he said. “It is for our constituents in middle Georgia that we come together in a bipartisan, bicameral manner to reintroduce this legislation that will preserve our state’s history for future generations.

“Due to its history and archaeological importance, expanding Ocmulgee National Monument to Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park will be a lasting memorial to how individuals relate to the land and other natural resources. This expansion and improvement will be a fitting tribute to the Native Americans who first came to this historic site during the Paleo-Indian period.”

The park also will generate tourist revenue for Macon and the surrounding areas while educating visitors on the little-known fact that different cultures have occupied the land for thousands of years. The mounds and earth-lodges that the Mississippians built to serve as formal council chambers when they arrived in the area around 900 A.D. remain intact for all to see and appreciate.

Ocmulgee National Monument was originally authorized by Congress in 1934 to protect a fraction of the lands commonly known as the “Old Ocmulgee Fields,” upon which certain Indian mounds of great historical importance are located. The legislation envisioned a large park of approximately 2,000 acres, but local citizens could finance the acquisition of only 678 acres by the time it opened in 1936.

Today, the Ocmulgee National Monument contains 702 acres. The role of the monument is to “present a story of many stages of prehistoric cultural development, emphasizing the influences of agriculture, the Mound Builder period, and the relationship of these various cultures to each other and to life today.”

The Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park Boundary Revision Act enjoys support from the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee [Creek], and Seminole Nations), which represent more than 500,000 Native Americans throughout the United States. The measure is also supported by Macon Mayor Robert Reichert, the Macon Chamber of Commerce, the Macon-Bibb Visitors Bureau, the Macon-Bibb Commission, the Macon-Bibb Economic Development Commission, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Southeast Tourism Society, and the Ocmulgee National Park & Preserve Initiative.

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Writer with The Albany Herald.

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