Ocmulgee Old Fields
Eisenhower Parkway Extension
1/29/85: The proposed highway (Fall Line Freeway), which is part of the "developmental highway" plan conceived by state Department of Transportation Commissioner Tom Moreland, would connect the three major cities (Augusta/Macon/Columbus) lying along Georgia's fall line. The Piedmont region of the state meets the Coastal Plain at the fall line... But no money has been recommended by Gov. Joe Frank Harris in his proposed budget for the highway that would traverse the midstate, although Moreland is enthusiastic about prospects for the roadway. One of the main beneficiaries of such a road would be the military. Such a freeway would facilitate travel between Fort Benning near Columbus, Robins Air Force Base south of Macon (at Warner Robins) and Fort Gordon near Augusta. (Macon Telegraph article)
1/31/85: The four mile road would replace a shorter, half-mile-long Eisenhower (Parkway) extension in the Macon Area Transportation Plan, said Elmo Richardson, president of Tribble and Richardson, an engineering firm, and leading advocate of local highway improvements... The MATS group abandoned (the old plan to extend Eisenhower across the river) in favor of a more modest Eisenhower-Seventh St. connector in the face of DOT traffic-count studies showing only 2,000 vehicles a day would use the road. "We had identified a need in the future basically for another crossing of the river," said Bob Moore, a staffer in the DOT's planning and development bureau... The road also "may have some impact on where the Fall Line Freeway comes through Macon," Richardson said, adding the freeway plan is really a different proposal. (Macon Telegraph article)
8/23/85: "...the consultant we hired showed greater economic development potential for a route more the south (of Macon)," said Tom Moreland, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation. (Macon Telegraph article)
10/24/85: Even if the Fall Line Freeway bypasses Macon to the south, the city still should get state help to extend the Eisenhower Parkway into the Seventh Street industrial district," the Chairman of the Bibb County Commission (Emory Greene) said Wednesday. "Eisenhower Parkway is a separate thing, regardless of the Fall Line Freeway." (Macon Telegraph article)
1/19/86: "He (Tom Moreland, Commissioner, GA Dept of Transportation) wants to extend the Eisenhower Parkway, with us (General Assembly) paying for it," said (House Speaker Tom) Murphy after taking a look at the route and stating his opposition... How the DOT came up with a route different than the two that had been under consideration last month was a puzzle to many legislators, who were caught off guard. (Macon Telegraph article)
4/2/87: A spat between state lawmakers over increasing the tax on gasoline is putting a damper on local plans for extending the Eisenhower Parkway. While state Department of Transportation officials say it isn't dead, it has been taken out of the work schedule for the Macon Area Transportation Study Policy Committee. (Macon Telegraph article)
7/23/90: Supporters of the Ocmulgee River greenway proposal say it might solve one of the region's long-standing concerns - how to incorporate the river into Macon's downtown development plans without harming it in the process... The idea is to link the region's historic and scenic areas, including Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Browns Mount, the Ocmulgee National Monument... (Macon Telegraph article)
3/7/91: (Bibb County Engineer Bob Fountain) said that construction of the Fall Line Freeway is planned for the area (behind the Macon Levee)... He continued by saying that when this road is constructed, this area will become more attractive to commercial development... (Elliott Roughen, Corps of Engineers) said the constriction of the river with the Interstate (I-16) and the levee is mainly what is causing the flow capacity problems. (Minutes of Levee Study Meeting at the RCD Conference Room)
Date? 1990: "The I-75 crosstown connector," (DOT Dist. Engineer) Etheridge said, "Is work that must be done regardless of the freeway." The project includes widening I-75 from Eisenhower to Interstate 16, widening I-16 from I-75 to Spring Street; improvements at the I-16 interchanges at Spring and Fifth Streets, widening the bridges on I-16 at the Ocmulgee River and Walnut Creek... (John) Wilson said: "If we need that anyway, why build the freeway?" Wilson said the DOT is moving on its plans because once the money is spent on phase one... there can be no turning back. "By building it in increments and putting off public hearings, that makes it almost unstoppable," he said. (Macon Telegraph article)
1/7/92: The family of Margaret Scott (Walker) has decided to donate about 300 acres of wetlands to the (Ocmulgee National) Monument, a move that would officially place the Monument directly in the past of the proposed freeway. (Macon Telegraph article) NOTE: Because of the controversy surrounding the proposed Eisenhower Parkway Extension, local politicians did not introduce legislation to expand the Monument's boundaries to include this donation, which was subsequently accepted by the Archaeological Conservancy, surveyed, and designated the "Scott-McCall Archaeological Preserve".
Date? 1992: "This (raising the Macon Levee) will take a couple of thousand acres out of the floodplain," said Bibb County Commission Chairman Larry Justice. He said much of the land is currently underdeveloped and could become prime industrial property because the Fall Line Freeway, when completed, is expected to dissect a portion of the land... One reason the levee is no longer adequate is because of development upstream, which has caused more runoff into the river. (Macon Telegraph editorial)
5/7/92: The Federal Highway Administration commitment to conduct comprehensive environmental and public interest decision-making requires the collection and presentation of all information relevant to a project, including its indirect consequences and contribution to area-wide change. (Memo to Regional Federal Highway Administrators from Chief, Environmental Operations Divsion, FWHA)
9/15/92: When we look out over the Ocmulgee bottomlands from the top of Mound A (at Ocmulgee National Monument), we may think of the area as vacant because it has not been completely remade by us, but it isn't at all vacant, it contains a record of a crucial juncture in human history. That this record and public resource is not confined to the bounds of the Monument is already demonstrated by the existing archaeological record. (Letter to David Studstill, GDOT, from Dr. Stephen Kowalewski, Univ. Of GA, in response to a DOT notice in the Macon Telegraph dated 4/24/92 giving until 4/27/92 for the public to request a hearing on the Eisenhower Parkway Extension river crossing segment)
2/2/94: The Macon City Council wants to annex land along the proposed route of the Fall Line Freeway (through the floodplain behind the Macon Levee)... "It's not even a little bit of a gamble" to annex this land, council President David Carter said. "People are already grabbing up the property. It'll be developed with anything from filling stations to restaurants to whatever" ...Council members Elaine Lucas, Lonnie Miley and Delores Brooks opposed the measure. (Macon Telegraph article)
3/11/94: The proposed work, budgeted at $5.8-million, consists of raising the (Macon) levee a maximum of three feet over its approximate length of 5-1/2 miles... There will potentially be greater flooding on the east side of the river during 100-year events with the proposed levee. (Memo to Mark Cheskey from Randy Rivinus, employees of GDOT's consulting firm Maguire Baker, Inc. )
3/30/94: Because of the federal trust resources potentially at risk, the environmental review needs to consider the impact of the project (Eisenhower Parkway Extension) on all uplands and wetlands in the construction corridor... We are concerned that the preferred alternatives would be contrary to Executive Order 11988. (Letter to Dominic Saulino, of the GDOT consulting firm Maquire Baker, Inc., from Phillip Laumeyer, U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service)
NOTE: Executive Order 11988 states that Federal agencies must avoid adverse impacts associated with occupancy and modification of the base floodplain, and avoid direct and indirect support of development in the base floodplain if there is a practicable alternative. The National Environmental Policy Act (42 U.S.C. 4321) requires federal agencies to examine indirect consequences which may occur in areas beyond the immediate influence of a proposed action and at some time in the future (secondary and cumulative impacts).
4/94: Macon-Bibb County Planning and Zoning Commission (in cooperation with GDOT and FWHA) completed a study recommending a new highway and bridge across the Ocmulgee River just above River North subdivision in the Arkwright area of Macon, to "...provide an adequate crossing of the Ocmulgee River and relieve congestion on the Gray Highway Corridor... and along I-75 and I-16." (P&Z "Cross County Connector" study)
NOTE: The "Jabot Tract," a huge strip of forest/farmland beginning at Arkwright and stretching for five miles along the Jones County side of the river, was sold in 1998 for development.
8/9/94: (DOT's Rick) Richardson and (Bob) Entorf agreed that deep (archaeological) testing would be best contracted separately, nearer to the actual project construction. (Rebecca) Gifford stated that, with that approach, the NEPA process would continue and conclude; however, a MOA stipulation would include a deep-testing requirement... Gifford asked why so many alternatives were being studied. (Lesa) Walker commented that due to the public agency interest, more than usual attention would be given to alternative selection. Gifford asked if full noise, air, ecology and history evaluations would be done on each of the 4 build alternatives. Walker said no. (Brockington & Associates' archaeologist) Gardner asked if the centerline and outer limits of the interchange could be cleared and staked... Walker is preparing a separate supplemental for the time extension to be ready by the end of the week. (Maguire Baker, Inc. Notes from meeting)
8/10/94: The breach of the (Macon) levee and subsequent flooding of these businesses during the Flood of '94, as well as plans to raise the levee, have focused public attention on the viability of floodplain development. The recent annexation of this area by the City and inclusion of the Eisenhower Parkway Extension in the impending sales tax vote has focused additional attention on the area behind the levee... The most significant finding was that the actual flood damage incurred by the breakage of the levee was only $13.7-million. The Corps of Engineers had estimated in July 1993 that if the levee were to break, it would cause $41-million in damages... The Corps must justify their plan to raise the Macon Levee. The benefit-cost ratio much be greater than 1... the actual damages are only .138. (League of Women Voters, "Survey of Businesses Located Behind the Macon Levee Regarding the Macon Levee and the Eisenhower Parkway Extension")
9/6/94: The total project - linking Eisenhower Parkway to Emery Highway - has been estimated to cost about $106-million... (DOT Engineer) Etheridge said he isn't sure why land for the extension route wasn't precleared before construction started... (Macon Telegraph article)
10/10/94: (GDOT's Rebecca) Gifford commented that the Department does not agree with FWHA's opinion of 4(f) applicability. (Notes of Maguire Baker, Inc.-GDOT Eisenhower Parkway Extension Project Status Meeting)
10/94: While the route would pass through lands that have been identified as Muscogee (Creek) cultural lands... These lands have been studied by archaeologists and have never been found to be burial grounds or "sacred" lands. The Bibb County Board of Commissioners and the State Department of Transportation have taken every caution to protect the integrity of these lands and to protect the integrity of the environmental "wet-lands." (Form letter from Larry Justice in reply to inquires from constituents)
NOTE: An attached map of the proposed route fails to show the interchange at I-16, partially located on the Scott-McCall Archaeological Preserve, and erroneously shows the road at least a mile from both the Main Unit and the Lamar Unit of Ocmulgee National Monument.
1/31/95: Subject: Section 404 Permit Application for the Eisenhower Parkway Extension: The Department is submitting a pre-discharge notification pursuant to the Nationwide Permit Part 330, Appendix A(B)(26) for the referenced project... One historic resource eligible for the National Register of Historic Places was located within the project area of potential environmental impact... A finding of "No Adverse Effect," contingent on appropriate archeological mitigation, is anticipated... It is our hope that you can issue a 404 Permit contingent upon finalizing of the Section 106 Permit. (Letter to Necholus Ogden, Corps of Engineers from David Studstill, GDOT)
NOTE: The corridor traverses an area on the east side of the river where a Ice Age "Clovis" spearpoint was found by a collector during construction of I-16 in the 1960's. No testing was done in the floodplain wetlands, which were primarily farm fields as recently as the 1930's. Two sites deemed eligible for National Register status were identified in the corridor behind the Macon Levee -- one with a large Muscogee (Creek) component. According to Brockington & Associates' report, no testing was done in part of the area behind the levee because of toxic contamination.
6/15/95: Years ago with the construction of I-16 (through Ocmulgee National Monument), the decisive intrusion took place. It would be sheer obstructionism for the Creek Nation to try to block construction completely or hold out for the higher-cost alternative at this date. (Macon Telegraph editorial)
6/95: There is no city of this size in the country that has adjacent to its downtown area a cultural, historical and natural resource such as the (Ocmulgee Old) Fields... Rather than seeing the Muscogee (Creek) Nation as doing us the great service of calling us to our senses, the editorial describes the Nation's concerns about preserving its history as standing in the way of Macon's progress... (The Muscogee National Council members) were not fooled by the erroneous information given during Larry Justice's lobbying effort; they were appalled that the public was shut off from them... They were rightfully insulted by being taken to the Bibb County Sheriff's Firing Range for ridiculous helicopter rides. Apparently, their hosts did not know that the Firing Range is located where the 2,000-year-old Swift Creek Mounds and Ceremonial Center were located prior to being bulldozed away in one day without notice to anyone. (Macon Telegraph "Another View")
10/15/95: A Corps of Engineers spokesman said the agency hasn't yet received an application for the Eisenhower Parkway Construction and has no official reports or documents to share with the Muscogee Creeks. "But the nation has been included in 'informal' planning discussions," said Jim Parker, Chief of Public and Legislative Affairs in the Savannah District. (Macon Telegraph article) NOTE: See permit application dated 1/31/95.
11/95: The Ocmulgee Fields are remarkable in part because continuous human habitation there can be traced backward over 10,000 years. Additionally, the Ocmulgee Fields contain some of the most spectacular natural resources anywhere along the Fall Line. If properly managed, the Ocmulgee Fields could make Macon a point-of-destination for heritage and environmental tourism, while also enhancing the quality of live for Macon residents. (Publication, Campaign to Stop the Longest Bridge in Georgia, prepared by the Sierra Club, with assistance from the Georgia Center for Law in the Public Interest)
11/30/95: An official public hearing on the extension will be called in the near future," said David Studstill (GDOT)... adding that a public hearing hasn't been scheduled because the DOT is still collecting information on the extension for public review. (Macon Telegraph article)
12/7/95: It is both an inalienable right and a fundamental responsibility of a sovereign nation to protect and preserve the cultural and historical legacy of its people... Through forced removal, the Muscogee Nation has been denied the right to protect its historical sites, ceremonial and religious use areas... I believe that the Muscogee people and the citizens of Macon have common interests in the Fall Line region of the Ocmulgee River... We must work together to ensure that in the effort to develop economically, we preserve for our children what is truly most valuable to us... the irreplaceable land and the story that it contains. (Letter to Leon Larson, FWHA, from Principal Chief Bill Fife)
2/22/96: Bibb County Commission Chairman Larry Justice, along with local businessmen Charlie Jones and Ben Porter and Mercer University Vice President Johnny Mitchell, met with Muscogee (Creek) Nation officials in Okmulgee, OK, on Monday and Tuesday. The Muscogees have elected a new tribal chief and the Macon group hopes the new administration will be more amenable to the Eisenhower Parkway Extension route... "Basically, we're just trying our best to save $100-million for our community on this project," Justice said... Justice denied rumors that the Creeks have discussed a local land swap with local officials as a means to establishing a gambling casino enterprise in the state. Justice said even if some kind of land swap were discussed at some point he would work to ensure that gambling would be prohibited. (Macon Telegraph article)
2/23/96: The Governors Road Improvement Program (GRIP) has been built on borrowed money, a ballooning debt that will obligate taxpayers to repay $1.5-billion in principal and interest over the next 20 years... "Deep down we know that we should not put this on future generations..." said Lauren "Bubba" McDonald. "It's a typical pattern," (Warren) Williams, president of the Georgia Transportation Alliance, said. "The highway advocates develop a notion without input from the people, go out and start paving and then try to get the people to ante up the money to pay for it." (Atlanta Journal-Constitution article)
3/12/96: Representatives of the Creek Indian Muscogee Nation are expected to arrive Thursday in Macon, where business and political leaders will try to garner support for the Eisenhower Parkway Extension... Expenses for the Creeks will be paid by Bibb County government. "What we want and have asked them for is to rescind their opposition to the DOT alignment and pass a new resolution in support of it." (Larry) Justice said. (Macon Telegraph article)
3/14/96: Talk of a land swap with the Muscogee Nation headquartered in Okmulgee, OK, centers around the suggestion that if the Creeks dropped their opposition to the extension they would be given land elsewhere in Georgia, probably to establish a gambling casino. The rumor surfaced last month as a local group prepared to visit leaders in Oklahoma... Alan Cook, historic preservation officer for the Muscogee Nation said Wednesday that rumors about the land swap are baseless... Larry Justice, Chairman of the Bibb Board of Commissioners called the land swap rumor "nothing but a ploy by environmentalists opposition to cast doubt and suspicion." "This is not an Indian versus Bibb County issue. This is an environmentalist issue," Justice said. (Macon Telegraph article)
6/7/96: I have recently learned of the Georgia Department of Transportation's proposed plan to develop the Fall-Line Freeway/Eisenhower Parkway Extension through a clearly identified section of the Ocmulgee Old Fields. In the course of an eight year planning process for the Fall-Line Freeway your agency has failed to enter into consultation with the Thlopthlocco Tribal Town as required by Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the American Indian Religious Freeway Act, and the Archeological Resources Protection Act... I am requesting that the Georgia Department of Transportation provide my office with all design plans, maps, archeological reports, and other supporting documents relevant to the proposed development of the Fall-Line Freeway in Macon, Georgia... (Letter to Wayne Shackelford, GDOT, from Grace Bunner, Mekke, Thlopthlocco Tribal Town)
6/27/96: Tribal Resolution 92-10, adopted on September 26, 1992, opposed the proposed "Eisenhower Parkway Extension/Fall Line Freeway" construction project in Macon, Georgia... Tribal Resolution 95-10, adopted December 16, 1995, identified and affirmed certain portions of the "Ocmulgee Old Fields" as Muscogee traditional cultural property and again opposed construction of the (project). Let it be known that the majority of the National Council on June 25, 1996, hereby reaffirms and supports the intent of the aforementioned resolutions and once again expresses its opposition to any attempt to disturb the area in question... The Muscogee Nation desires to work in good faith with other governmental entitles. However, in reference to the proposed construction, in a site held sacred by the majority of our people, it is our hope that others will respect our desire to leave the area protected and preserved. (Letter to Larry Justice from Wilbur Gouge, First Speaker, Creek National Council)
7/14/96: The preferred DOT route is one of 12 alternative routes that have been drawn up, but Justice said no other route is being serious considered. "We tried to inform the Muscogee Nation about the positives of this route," he said, "It's a radical, dissident bunch out there, so we're going to have to find a new direction.". (Macon Telegraph article)
8/25/96: The GDOT has created a system ripe for corruption and deal making and the worst of power politics. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution article)
8/26/96: He (Wayne Shackelford, Commissioner, GDOT) still sees the world through the eyes of a suburban real estate developer. (To him highways) are the magic ingrediant in converting low-priced rural farmland into high-priced subdivisions and malls, which in turn create personal fortunes. It is the only vision of growth he understands. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution article)
9/16/96: It will be an incongruous sight. Tomorrow a group of folks will rally at the site where the Fall Line Freeway ends south of downtown. They'll call for politicians and their fellow citizens to act. But this group of "protesters" will be wearing suits and most of the will be middle-aged or older. And they'll be in favor of pushing the road through the Ocmulgee Old Fioelds... Led by real estate developer Emmett Barnes III, the local business group hopes to recreate the success of a similar effort that led to passage of a one-cent sales tax for local road improvements. Barnes group feels equally strongly that the Indians objections are misplaced. "We had the same kind of opposition when I-74 and I-475 went through," Barnes said. (Macon Telegraph article)
NOTE: The one-cent sales tax passed by a very narrow margin, because of opposition to the Eisenhower Parkway Extension. Former GDOT Commissioner Tom Moreland's firm, Moreland Altobelli, was hired by Bibb County to oversee the Road Improvement Program funded by the one-cent sales tax increase. In 1998, a large number of citizens, who voted for the sales-tax, became extremely irate after they realized that the Road Improvement Program plans called for four-laning roads through many of the city's most beautiful, stable neighborhoods and degrading lawns in the city's downtown historic areas (see Macon Telegraph files).
10/10/96: If they (opponents of the Eisenhower Parkway Extension) don't give in, we'll just knock 'em down.
(National Public Radio interview with Emmett Barnes III)
10/18/96: Keep the Fall Line Freeway, Change the Route: For many reasons the undersigned have purchased this newspaper space to state their opposition to the currently proposed route for the Fall Line Freeway and to respectfully request that our elected officials and the Georgia Department of Transportation adopt an alternative route. (Macon Telegraph "ad" bearing 185 names)
10/28/96: We are confident that the state will treat the Fall Line Freeway property in the same way as the greenway... Please let me again reaffirm that the Department of Transportation and the Department of Natural Resources have given great assurances that Indian artifacts would not be disturbed in the construction of the Fall Line Freeway... (Letter to Principal Chief Perry Beaver from Larry Justice)
3/9/97: The Bibb County Commission has hired a Washington lobbyist for $84,000 to help push the Fall Line Freeway route south of downtown Macon. The Commission voted last week to hire William Horn, of the Washington, DC, law firm Birch, Horton, Bittner and Cherot... (Macon Telegraph article)
3/19/97: U. S. Rep. Saxby Chambliss, R-Macon, made his pitch for federal funding for Middle Georgia's Fall Line Freeway this week, calling it the "most important project in the State of Georgia" ...Specifically, the project would require an estimated $227-million from the federal government and $56-million from the state to build the eastern portion, from Macon to Augusta... The Fall Line Freeway is a major part of the Governor's Road Improvement Plan that seeks to place a multi-lane highway within 20 miles of 98 percent of the state's population." (Macon Telegraph article)
NOTE: Based on these figures, the 1994 estimated cost of the proposed 3.7-mile Eisenhower Parkway Extension would pay for over a third of the Macon-Augusta leg of the Freeway.
3/31/97: The Muscogee (Creek) Nation's tribal council has twice voted overwhelmingly against approving a route for the Fall Line Freeway that passes through lands in Macon they consider sacred. But county officials figure they might be open to a deal anyway. Bibb County Commission Chairman Larry Justice said he "chatted" with Perry Beaver, the Creeks' principal chief, when Beaver was in town to serve as Grand Marshall of Macon's Cherry Blossom Festival... "My impression is that they want a place to sell Indian cultural items, crafts and that sort of thing," Justice said. "He talked about a bingo operation... If he cold go back and get support, then we'll talk further." (Macon Telegraph article)
4/18/97: The Flats (his coined name for the Ocmulgee Old Fields) area surrounding the proposed Fall Line Freeway does not begin to meet any of the requirements for being identified as a TCP, let alone for listing on the National Register. (Letter to Mark Edwards, GA State Historic Preservation Officer, from William P. Horne, Bibb County's Washington lobbyist)
6/6/97: Publication of Corps of Engineers Joint Public Meeting Notice proposing "Raising the Macon Levee" was distributed, but later withdrawn.
7/6/97: Athens showed foresight. While Bibb county was passing a local option sales tax dedicated to road projects, Athens was passing one of its own for transportation, safety, environment, culture, parks and recreation. (Macon Telegraph editorial)
8/19/97: The designation of the area (Ocmulgee Old Fields) -- which local and state officials want to bisect with the Fall Line Freeway - would be the first (National Register listing) in the Southeast for a "traditional cultural property" ...Dot is in the process of hiring consultants to perform environmental impact studies on all the proposed routes for the Fall Line Freeway. (Macon Telegraph article)
8/27/97: (Rep. Saxby) Chambliss said his role is not to influence a decision on a route, but to ensure that the paperwork doesn't get stuck on a bureaucratic desk... The fact that the federal government is now in charge of deciding which route is best has dampened a lot of criticism. Some opponents believe the GDOT is serving the ends of local politicians and land speculators. (Macon Telegraph article) but he changed this later... 7-29-98.
Late 1997: The GDOT contracted HDR, Inc. to undertake a multi-million dollar Environmental Impact Study for a cross-Macon route for the Fall Line Freeway. This firm immediately hired Mark Cheskey from Maguire Baker, Inc to head the project and sub-contracted Brockington & Associates to do the archaeological studies - the same people who had previously been consultants for the GDOT on the Eisenhower Parkway Extension route.
8/27/97: "Let's trust the engineers and get on with this," said Reginald Trice, Bibb County former Chairman of the State Highway Board. (Macon Telegraph article)
9-10/97: ...why does Macon have the reputation of lagging behind other cities its size in affecting change? Why do our leaders so often seem at cross purposes, unwilling to cooperate and compromise - and unwilling to share the glory of accomplishment? ...The Fall Line Freeway is a good example of this head-in-the-sand attitude. Proponents of the route through Bond Swamp have refused to consider any alternative routes, preferring to paint those who oppose that route as blockers of progress (and less complimentary terms)... Folks just keep beating up on folks - and then wonder why things don't happen here. (Macon Magazine editorial)
10/1/97: Instead of driving from Birmingham to Atlanta, then south to Macon to reach the port of Savannah, truckers could shave time and miles from the trip by driving from Birmingham to Columbus, then east (on the Fall Line Freeway) to Macon. (Macon Telegraph article)
NOTE: Maps show that travelers will utilize the Hwy 96 portion of the Freeway from Columbus to I-75; however, instead of dog-legging North, they will save many miles by continuing east on Hwy 96 through Warner Robins to pick up I-16 to Savannah and the coast - thus, bypassing Macon entirely. This route is in the process of being four-laned, even though it lost the "Fall Line Freeway" designation in the 1980's.
1/29/98: Thank you for attending today's public scoping meeting regarding the Eisenhower Parkway Extension in Macon. The Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) because the proposed project is likely to cause significant impacts to the environment. This process is different and separate from the studies of the early 1990's. There is no preferred alternative at this time... (Letter addressed Dear Citizens from Walker Scott, GDOT Director of Preconstruction)
NOTE: Over 100 people attended the meeting. A petition, collected by a lone individual, bearing the signatures of over 700 citizens opposing the project was presented to GDOT at this meeting.
1/30/98: "We, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation East of the Mississippi, support this project," said Harvey Gibson, a Florida native... "The Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma signed away their jurisdiction by the treaty of 1832." Gibson's legal theory notwithstanding, federal officials were quick to point out that his tribe is not recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and has no more say in the decision than any other citizen's group. Gibson and Johnny Chattin of the Georgia Tribe of Eastern Cherokee - another group this is not federally recognized - appeared (at GDOT's contractor HDR's Environmental Impact Study public scoping meeting) in traditional American Indian clothing, including buckskin and feathers, offending some of the Muscogees who traveled from Oklahoma for the meeting... Both Gibson and Chattin attended the meeting at the invitation of Bibb County Commission Chairman Larry Justice... Muscogee spokesman Alan Cook brushed aside Gibson's claim and focused on the actual decision making process. "We will pursue the reasonable, objective, thorough process," Cook said... Federal agencies on Wednesday criticized the DOT and consultants for giving the impression that they had already narrowed the scope of their search to variations on the Eisenhower Parkway extension. Justice objected to that criticism Thursday. "Let me caution the federal agencies, also, (against) stacking the deck," Justice said. "The DOT;s proposed route is the best route." (Macon Telegraph article)
1/30/98: Their (Harvey Gibson and Johnny Chattin) regalia and flute playing attracted attention... "It's Hollywood; it's a reflection of stereotypes of Native Americans that Hollywood has projected," said Muscogee (Creek) citizen Alan Cook about the two men's attire. "They're brought in by local politicians to tinge the Native American connection here." ...Joyce Bear, historic preservation officer of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation said, "We don't have to dress up like that. We;ve known who we are since birth." Chattin blasted the Oklahoma Creeks during a public comment session. "You only come to holler and squeal at somebody else's project; you don't come to help your brothers," he said. (Second Macon Telegraph article)
2/1/98: Why is this distinction between Fall Line and Eisenhower important? Because the federal government focused on this as a state improvement project, not a Macon improvement project. Yet, as if to pour gasoline on the fire, the DOT has a newsletter out that it labels "Eisenhower News" (Eisenhower Parkway Extension EIS and Location Studies) in which the progress of the Macon portion of the freeway is discussed... Meanwhile, DOT is supposed to project itself as a bunch of disinterested engineers. No wonder they have as credibility problem with citizens. (Macon Telegraph editorial)
2/10/98: Despite the protestations from the Georgia Department of Transportation, there is no logical reason why the Ocmulgee National Monument does not have a series of brown tourist signs on nearby interstate highways. Frankly, we are forced to wonder whether the signs have become some sort of political football. Surely, the signs are not being held hostage to trade for concessions to the controversy over Macon's share of the Fall Line Freeway... The fact is, no one involved in the dispute over the route of the Fall Line Freeway disagrees that the Ocmulgee National Monument is one of the city's most important tourist attractions... Potential tourists are important to the city's economic well being... The most obvious, credible advocacy group (for the National Monument) was driven from Georgia in the 1920's and now lives 1,000 miles away... But no matter what one thinks about the Fall Line route, putting up the signs is a no-brainer. (Macon Telegraph editorial)
2/15/98: One of the major drawbacks we have faced when trying to bring in new industries or increase the technical levels of existing industries has been a limited public school system. Bibb County's illiteracy rate, school drop-out rate and crime rate are among the very highest in Georgia... (Macon Telegraph "Letter to the Editors" from Larry Justice, Chairman, Bibb County Commission, promoting a new one-cent sales tax increase)
2/19/98: The three wise men projected a collective aura of gloomy frustration. As the meeting progressed I couldn't help thinking they all felt a little like Gen. Custer in the final moments of the Battle of the Little Bighorn... The three wise guys - excuse me, men - briefing us were Frank Pinkston, State Department of Transportation board member, Ben Porter, board chairman of the Department of Natural Resources, and Larry Justice, Chairman of the Bibb County Commission... Of course, this dispute involves the Creek Nation instead of the Sioux, which probably explains where there has yet to be any real bloodshed.... The contested issue is the routing of the Fall Line Freeway... The preferred route originally proposed would have necessitated blowing up the historic Indian Mounds with atomic weapons and destroying all Indian burial sites with land mines, not to mention paving over a large section of Middle Georgia's precious wetlands with radioactive concrete. Strike that last paragraph because it is chock full of misinformation, especially that part about the atomic weapons and the land mines. That's just propaganda spread by the Indians and their allies, the tree-huggers, sometimes called environmentalists in polite company... The truth is that the likes of Pinkston, Porter and Justice have bent over backward to accommodate the Indians... I mean, what is it with these people? Have we palefaces ever given them a reason to distrust us? (Macon Telegraph satirical editorial)
9/17/98: He (Bibb County Commission Chairman Larry Justice) told the Macon Area Transportation Study's policy committee Wednesday that the county just sent a letter to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service asking that it not expand Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge to the north until a federal study of the (Fall Line) freeway is complete. Ironically, the refuge's proposed northern expansion includes 250 acres that the county offered in 1996 as leverage to secure a $1 million federal grant to buy land for the expansion when it was first proposed. "By no means are we trying to throw a wet damper on this," Justice said of the (Bond Swamp) expansion and eventual inclusion into the Ocmulgee Heritage Greenway, a proposed nature park along the Ocmulgee. "...but, we are against anything that would serve as an impediment to the Eisenhower Parkway Extension." ...Unlike the county, the city wrote a letter in complete support of the refuge's expansion... The Mayor (of Macon) and chairman also disagreed over mentioning that the Greenway is planned to be developed south of Macon, through land that could also be used for the Eisenhower Parkway extension. At Justice's behest, the transportation committee passed a motion not to depict on maps of the proposed greenway any trees along the river a few miles south of Central City Park and toward Robins Air Force Base. He said he feared that any mention of eventual plans to build the greenway into Houston County could jeopardize the Eisenhower Parkway Extension. (Mayor) Marshall, on the other hand, said that omitting future plans for the greenway south of Macon would only hurt the credibility of the federal study of the Eisenhower Parkway Extension... Marshall said, "I don't think we ought to be in the business of kidding people." (Macon Telegraph article)
9/17/98: I would appreciate your consideration of the implications of the enclosed article for the 4(4) study of the route of the Fall Line Freeway through Macon. If the actions of Bibb County and the MATS Policy Committee are taken as in good faith and at face value, these actions must be considered as negative impacts of the GA DOT preferred route, the route that would bisect the Ocmulgee Old Fields... If the actions are not in good faith, that is, if the reporter and Mayor Marshall are correct in their apparent assessment of why these actions were taken, then we ask that you take appropriate measures against this scheme to knowingly misrepresent information in a matter within the jurisdiction of the agency in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1001. (Letter to Larry Dreihaup, Fed. Hwy Admin., from Jack Sammons, Friends of Ocmulgee Old Fields)
7/29/98: "Mr. Chairman, in an effort to construct an additional crossing of the Ocmulgee River through the city of Macon, GA, federal, state and local officials have been working together for over 20 years to extend the Eisenhower Parkway, but to no avail... In addition to the economic impact and easing Macon's traffic problems, this project could be used to link middle Georgia with a multi-lane Statewide corridor connecting Macon with the cities of Augusta and Columbus... Mr. Chairman, currently the project in Macon is virtually at a standstill as a result of bureaucratic delays, incurring additional costs to the taxpayer because of governmental agencies' inability to complete the approval process... I believe that this project in Macon and Bibb County, GA, could serve as a model of interagency cooperation." (Rep. Saxby Chambliss statement to House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee; 144 Congressional Record No. 104)
NOTE: See Chambliss' statement dated 8/27/97 saying he wasn't trying to influence the selection of any particular route.
Winter 1998: This July, Governor Zell Miller announced a $1.5 million RiverCare 2000 grant for the (Ocmulgee River) greenway and the Macon Water Works announced the donation of 250 acres at the old water works for the trail head. The 12-foot wide trail, to be designed and constructed by the PATH Foundation, will link the old Macon Water Works site, Central City Park and the Ocmulgee National Monument, and will include such amenities as trail-heads, boat launches, river access points, and environmental education centers (Georgia Newsletter of the Trust for Public Land)
12/4/98: GDOT brought representatives from three Muscogee (Creek) tribal towns to Macon for an official tour and consultation regarding the cross-Macon connector for the Fall Line Freeway.
12/21/98: GDOT brought Chief Bobby Billie, Independent Seminole of Florida, and a consultant from the federally recognized Florida Seminole to Macon for an official tour and consultation regarding the cross-Macon connector for the Fall Line Freeway.
1/5/99: The state's transportation chief (Wayne Shackelford) told legislative budget writers Monday that he expects to win the battles over the controversial route of the Fall Line Freeway through Bibb County... He said the state transportation department could know within a few months whether it has proved to the federal government that the only feasible and prudent route for the freeway in Bibb County is along the Eisenhower Parkway Extension and through the Ocmulgee Old Fields, an area considered sacred by the Creek Indians. But Shackelford said he expects opponents of the freeway route to file a lawsuit once the federal government makes a decision. "We'll win the battle. We just may be a lot older," he told a joint session of the House and Senate appropriations committees. (Macon Telegraph article)
1/8/99: On Tuesday, the Bibb County Road Improvement Program pulled out a revolver and shot itself in the foot - again... It seems our roads program is more concerned about how much concrete it can pour than with the wishes of the citizens... It's a Bibb County taboo to look at what effect something will have 10 or 20 years down the (pardon the pun) road. So we end up spending money just because we have it, not because of real need. (Macon Telegraph editorial)
6-99 MILLEDGEVILLE - While the course of the Fall Line Freeway through Macon is still being debated, officials in some Middle Georgia counties are eagerly awaiting the road's opening. article 6-27-99
7-99 State Department of Transportation officials, national park rangers, Muscogee Indians and concerned residents have all turned their eyes to the Keeper of the National Registry, a federal office that determines historical boundaries. DOT and the Muscogee Indians disagree on land eligible for construction. see article July 19, 1999
8-23-99 www.augustachronicle.com - "Engineers to rework route for Fall Line Freeway from Augusta to Columbus to avoid Ocmulgee Nat Monument ... The path of progress has hit a snag in middle Georgia -- and this time around, tradition is winning the battle. article
The Georgia Department of Transportation is looking to the Federal Highway Administration for approval of the Fall Line Freeway through Macon. DOT readies impact statement on Eisenhower extension April 7, 2000 see article
Carol D. Shull - Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places - National Register, History, and Education writes a letter to Federal Highways. It concerns: the boundaries for the Ocmulgee Old Fields Historic District, Bibb and Twiggs counties, Georgia. April 2000. Read letter.
A Call to Action
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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