Effort to expand Kennesaw Mountain, other Georgia parks faces long road

Autumn colors blanketing Kennesaw Mountain.

Credit: Photo by Tom Wilson

Credit: Photo by Tom Wilson

Autumn colors blanketing Kennesaw Mountain.

Georgia Republicans re-introduced legislation this week that would expand the boundaries of three of the state’s historic parks.

U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue along with U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, announced Thursday the bill that would grow Kennnesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, along with Fort Frederica National Monument in St. Simons Island and Ocmulgee National Monument in Macon, in a 660-page federal lands compromise in the Senate.

The latest push comes weeks after a broader disagreement over lands policy killed similar language in the waning hours of the last Congress.

Quick passage of the bipartisan measure is not guaranteed in the House because the new Democratic chairman of the Natural Resources Committee wants to make his own mark on another major program in the bill, according to Washington publication CQ Roll Call. This could potentially upset the delicate political compromises made in the Senate.

Fort Frederica National Monument on St. Simons Island

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In 2016, the effort to expand the Georgia sites unanimously passed the House and the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee before dying on the Senate floor in December.

It’s not that the Georgia legislation is controversial, but Senate leaders are often wary of devoting days of limited floor time to smaller parochial bills. Instead, leaders typically lump dozens of such land bills together and try to approve them unanimously. But that allows one dissenting senator stop the entire process, which is what happened in December ahead of the government shutdown.

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Much of the proposed new land on the Georgia sites would be dontated or exchanged, which makes their acquisition cheaper than an outright purchase.

Kennesaw Mountain would expand eight acres to include Union sites Wallis House and Harriston Hill. Fort Frederica's change would increase in size from 250 to 305 acres. The Ocmulgee monument would become the "Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park," increasing its boundaries greatly to 2,100 acres.

The burial mounds at the Ocmulgee National Monument, near Macon, were built by Native Americans during the Mississippian period, around 1000 CE. (Photo courtesy of the National Trust for Historic Preservation)

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This is the third time Loudermilk has tried to expand the sites, he said in a release this week. Attempts in 2012, 2014 and 2016 failed.

The only site in metro Atlanta is Kennesaw Mountain, which had 2,593,725 visits in 2017 — making the Civil War battleground the 37th most-visited federal park site, ahead of Mount Rushmore, Bryce Canyon, Mount Rainier and Death Valley.

“Kennesaw Mountain is one of the wonderful historic attractions in our district ... Our nation has long recognized the importance of preserving historic sites, especially those battlefields where Americans fought and died for our freedoms,” according to a statement from Loudermilk’s office.

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