Ocmulgee Old Fields
May 22, 1997
To the Editors
In a recent editorial, you said that delays in the Fall Line Freeway had been caused by "politics and opposition by environmentalists and members of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation." The truth is that for over three years the delay has been caused by an obstinate insistence by a few people on one particular route, a refusal to comply with historical preservation laws, and foolish efforts to convince the Muscogee people than abandoning the most important place in their history was somehow in their best interest. The proponents of this one route were frequently warned that the tactics they were using were going to cause significant delays. Unfortunately, they did not heed these warnings. It is surely ironic that the county must now hire a lobbyist to attempt to recover the time that has been lost.
The process of review now finally underway is only a few months old. It is in everyone's interest, including the interests of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, that this process be expedited. Prior to Mr. Horn's involvement, the estimates given by the Federal Highway Administration and the State Historic Preservation Officer were that the process would take eighteen to twenty-four months, far less than usual because some required studies have already been done.
I am not, however, optimistic about this time schedule. Recently, the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) formally recognized the historical importance of the Ocmulgee Old Fields, the lands that would be bisected by the proposed route. This recognition was supported by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, The National Parks and Conservation Association, the State Historic Preservation Officer, and many others. It was opposed only by Mr. Horn. In the process of recognizing the Old Field's, however, GDOT extended the northern boundary of the protected lands from the boundary requested by the Muscogee (Creek) Nation to one much further north. The boundary proposed by GDOT includes the commercialized areas north of the Ocmulgee National Monument. Yes, it is true. According to GDOT, the Baconsfield Kroger is an important historic site. GDOT did this in the mistaken belief that including potential alternative routes, such as the Emery Highway, within the protected lands would bolster the chances of its proposed route. Because of GDOT's bad faith in complying with the law, this boundary determination must now be appealed to the Keeper of the National Registry, thus causing unnecessary delays. My fear is that these tactics will continue making further delays unavoidable.
In your editorial you also say that you endorse the proposed route because "it will have less effect on wetlands and archeological sites." Since there are alternative routes that would have little or no effect on either wetlands or archaeological sites, I must reluctantly conclude that you are being disingenuous. There is, however, something more important in this than the strange politics of an editorial board. The Muscogee (Creek) Nation's interests in the Old Fields is neither environmental nor archaeological. It is, and always has been, historical and spiritual.
The laws they seek to enforce are the same laws protecting all other important historical sites. Until the proponents of the proposed route, including the editors of this paper, come to understand that the history of other people is important too, the community consensus you call for in the editorial will not be possible. You have already excluded from the community conversation those whom you would harm.
Jack L. Sammons
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A Call to Action
Senator Coverdell has been leaning on the FHWA to get the FLF project completed. Please send an e-mail to Senator Coverdell at email@example.com. The e-mail should express opposition to the Ga. DOT preferred route, A-I, and ask that Coverdell require Ga. DOT to find an alternative route. Thanks.
Coverdell has his own web page with an e-mail link if people want to do that. Please do this as soon as possible and send e-mails out to others asking the same.
You can help preserve the Old Fields and its irreplacable cultural resources. Write to the Secretary of Interior and tell him there are reasonable and feasible alternatives to construction of this road through the Old Fields. Tell him that you oppose any attempt desicrate these sacred lands.
US Department of Interior
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240
Write to your Congressman and Senators and tell them federal money should not be appropriated for construction of a road through the Ocmulgee Old Fields. Ask them to oppose any legislation that would exempt this project from the requirements of section 4(F) of the Department of Transportation Act. Section 4(F) requires that Georgia DOT demonstrate that there are no feasible and prudent alternatives to the proposed route.
For addresses of your representatives in Washington, visit the Capweb.
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