A New National Park in Georgia?
A collaborative effort to establish a National Park & Preserve in Middle Georgia
By Georgia Conservancy Communications Director Brian Foster and Georgia Conservancy Natural Resources Director Charles McMillan
Millions of Americans travel annually through Middle Georgia’s Ocmulgee River corridor. While many stop to refuel or grab a bite to eat before heading to destinations north or south, fewer stop to explore the natural and cultural treasures contained within this transitional landscape.
As the fall line gives way to the coastal plain near Macon, the rocky shoals of the upper Ocmulgee River transform into sandy river banks flanked by Spanish-moss drenched cypress. It’s in this corridor between Macon and Hawkinsville that the Georgia Conservancy, along with local and national partners, is promoting and actively working toward the establishment of a vast National Park and Preserve – one that would stitch together existing federal lands, including an expanded Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park, with state lands, and donated conservation easements
The Ocmulgee River is a special place, unique in the southeast. It was once home to the ancient Mississippian civilization and their descendants, the historic Creek people. This area is recognized as one of America’s most important archaeological landscapes. The Ocmulgee River was also an important waypoint in the expansion of the eastern frontier, marked by all of the tragedy and triumph of that early period in America’s history. Today, Middle Georgia’s Ocmulgee River corridor is a critical migratory flyway and wildlife habitat, home to one of Georgia’s three populations of black bear and contains the largest block of forested habitat remaining in the upper coastal plain.
- To create a premier National Park for Middle Georgia and the Southeastern United States
- To establish a 35-mile long protected river corridor for wildlife
- To honor and preserve the land’s history and evolution from Native American ownership to the present day
- To connect cities across Middle and Coastal Georgia through recreational opportunities afforded by this landscape
- Natural ecology, wildlife, and vegetation
- Local and statewide economies (fishing, hunting, tourism)
- Various community groups, including historically-disenfranchised groups like the Muscogee (Creek) Nation
Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park
- Enabling Legislation – U.S. House Resolution 538 (2017)
- Renamed Ocmulgee National Monument to Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park
- Mandated the expansion of the Park to include 2,100 acres of new parkland through land acquisitions and sales
- Calls for studies to assess historical value and generate a plan to acquire properties for the park and 35 miles of preserves along the Ocmulgee River
- Expansion of the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park
- Joint Land Use Studies: National Park and Robins Air Force Base (AFB)
- Coalition-building among stakeholders
- Protection and preservation of the Ocmulgee River Corridor through land acquisition, conservation easements, and Robins AFB’s Readiness & Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) Program
- Coordination of existing state plans, including the Georgia Sentinel Landscapes Partnership, State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP), and Black Bear Management Plan
Why It Matters
The Ocmulgee River plays a significant role in the economic health, quality of life, and regional identity of the Middle and will continue to do so in the next 50 plus years if it is preserved. It is believed that existing public lands along the river have great potential value to the recreation and tourism economy of many communities in Middle Georgia. Currently, the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park is already the region’s largest visitor attraction, with great room for growth.
Ocmulgee Partners in Conservation
The Georgia Conservancy
Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve Initiative
Ocmulgee Land Trust
Open Space Institute
The Nature Conservancy in Georgia
National Parks Conservation Association
National Park Foundation
National Park Trust
National Wildlife Refuge Association
Stay up-to-date: www.georgiaconservancy.org/ocmulgee-national-park
Support the Georgia Conservancy’s collaborate efforts in the Ocmulgee corridor: www.gagives.org/story/J0bpsf
Click here to watch our May 2020 Facebook Live discussion with the Ocmulgee National Park & Preserve Initiative and the National Parks Conservation Association.