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Tamar Hallerman

U.S. House okays bill designating new national historic park in Georgia

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Children join in the fun as Indians in brightly colored tribal dress perform ceremonial dances during the 14th Annual Ocmulgee Indian Celebration Saturday and Sept. 18, at Ocmulgee National Monument. The celebration also features authentic Indian crafts, fine art, flute music, storytellers, historic demonstrations and nine encampments. CREDIT: Ocmulgee National Monument

Children join in the fun as Indians in brightly colored tribal dress perform ceremonial dances during the annual celebration held at Ocmulgee National Monument. CREDIT: Ocmulgee National Monument

Updated at 5:20 p.m.: 

The Ocmulgee Park legislation is actually the second bill coming out of the U.S. House in as many months that would designate a new national historic park in Georgia.

The first came from Atlanta Democrat John Lewis. Cleared by the chamber last month, that measure would classify the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site as a national historic park, which is the highest level of protection offered by the federal government.

That bill was considered by a Senate committee last week and is awaiting consideration in that chamber.

Original post: 

The U.S. House quietly passed a bill Tuesday that would pave the way for Georgia’s first national historical park.

The legislation would designate the Ocmulgee National Monument, near Macon, as the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park and expand its boundaries roughly four-fold to more than 2,800 acres. It would also authorize a study looking into further expansion and eventually create a greenway-water corridor with the Bond Swamp Wildlife Refuge and Ocmulgee River.

“Our legislation is a welcomed example of what can be achieved when a local community, state leaders, and Members of Congress, from both sides of the aisle, collaborate towards a worthy goal, and today’s vote marks an important milestone in many years of effort to bring about increased recognition and enhanced cultural preservation of the Ocmulgee National Monument,” said U.S. Rep Austin Scott, R-Tifton, who co-sponsored the bill along with Albany Democrat Sanford Bishop, in a statement.

Here’s some more background from our colleague Dan Chapman:

Georgia is already home to National Historic Sites (such as Andersonville), National Heritage Areas (Arabia Mountain), National Recreation Areas (the Chattahoochee River) and a National Seashore (Cumberland Island). Ocmulgee, if approved by Congress and the president, would join Appomattox Court House, Harpers Ferry and other historic sites.

Native Americans first settled in Middle Georgia roughly 17,000 years ago. Burial mounds and earthen lodges built by the Mississippians around 900 A.D. remain intact.

In a speech on the House floor, Bishop said “few, if any historic sites in the United States” show evidence of such continuous human habitation.

“It is what makes the Ocmulgee National Monument so unique. On its 702 acres, one can find archaeological evidence from these first nomads, as well as the mound builders of the Mississippian Period, British traders of the late seventeenth century, and the Civil War,” Bishop said.

The House passed the legislation unanimously. The Senate must take it up before it can be sent to the president’s desk. Johnny Isakson is shepherding that chamber’s version.