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Editorial Board of the The Macon Telegraph
Subject: Eisenhower Parkway Extension
|Date: Thu, 04 Apr 2002
I'm a former resident of the greater Macon area. I am interested in commenting
on the opinions that you recently put forth in the Macon Telegraph newspaper
concerning the Eisenhower Parkway Extension (3-26-02).
After living near the area in question for many years, I feel that my
analysis of these issues is both valid and appropriate. I am speaking from
the perspective of both aspects of this issue, tourism and development.
Having been through the years both a local resident and an outsider,
perhaps I have a unique view.
Find [below] an analysis of your comments on the project as presented in
Samuel J. Lawson III < email@example.com>
Including later additions and editing by webmaster,
Lindsay Holliday, Macon, GA
Macon Telegraph and News - Editorial Board Opinion 3.26/02 by Ed Corson
In Paragraph. 1, The Telegraph Editors wrote:
"A lobbying groups including of Macons Ocmulgee National Monument on its most-endangered list seems calculated to move public opinion (and sway political decisions) against the most feasible route for the Fall Line Freeway".
COMMENT: "Most feasible route" is irrelevant because the burden of proof to use our federal tax dollars for any project under a "4.F - EIS review" is for "ANY feasible alternatives".
Of course the listing is calculated to move public opinion and sway political decisions. Wasnt that what the Macon delegation attempted to do when they went to lobby Gov. Barnes a few weeks ago in support of the Eisenhower Parkway Extension? Isnt that what using the description lobbying group, instead of first referring to the National Parks Conservation Association by name, was intended to do?
"The Georgia Department of Transportation plans to minimize the impact on wetlands in linking the Eisenhower Parkway Extension with U.S. 23 on the other side of the river by extensive bridging. A 2001 Mercer University study confirmed that with extended conservation easements, ecological damage could be minimal".
COMMENT: Environmentally, flooding within Macon will occur more often and it will be worse. Extensive bridging of the highway through the wetlands is better than building it on berm; however, it far from solves the problems.
The highways I-16 interchange (on berm?) will gut the woodland/wildlife habitat between the Macon Plateau Unit and the Lamar Unit of Ocmulgee National Monument in an area where the floodplain hydrology has already been drastically altered by construction of I-16 in the 1960s. Bridging doesnt lessen the problem of hazardous run-off and litter. It doesnt soften the impact on migratory and endangered birds that feed in these wetlands. Most of all, it fails entirely to address other adverse impacts on Ocmulgee National Monument, the Scott-McCall Archaeological Preserve, which was donated to the National Park Service and is currently held in trust by the Archaeological Conservancy, the Ocmulgee Old Fields Traditional Cultural Property (District), the Ocmulgee River Heritage Greenway, and Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.
The referenced "2001 Mercer University study" has never been published in a scientific or a refereed journal. But, this research by Prof. Brian Rood was his attempt at the time to assure preservation of the peat deposit (at 18, it is the deepest known in the state of Georgia outside the Okefenokee Swamp), which is located in the preferred (D-1/D-2/D-3) corridor. He has been studying a 9 peat core obtained from this area. He suggested that the highway should be moved away from the peat side of the old railroad embankment (the corridor currently labeled C-1/C-2) to protect the peat. Unfortunately, his suggestion has been interpreted by some as putting the interchange squarely over New Pond on the Scott-McCall Archaeological Preserve, with access ramps entering the existing park boundary at Walnut Creek.
Like Jack Sammons (Law Professor at Mercer), Brian initially opposed the highway entirely. When this became known, attempts were made to intimidate both Jack and Brian through their employment at Mercer University. However, the Mercer President called Sammons early on in this process to suggest that "I might be making a mistake but there was no hint of pressure from him and it was clear that I had his support to speak out if I decided to do so." - Sammons says- "President Godsey, however, remains firmly on the other side primarily because he suspects, rightfully so, that there is a good chance that Macon will lose the Freeway entirely".
Dr Rood, who works in another department, does not have tenure, but he agrees "...I have never felt intimidated about my scientific research...and I have never said that the other route through the Old Fields would be a route-of-choice." He says that his research was never intended to be used as a justification for the highway, though supporters of the Eisenhower Parkway Extension (EPE) have often done so.
Another study, completed by the Middle Georgia Regional Development Commission at the request of the Bibb County Chamber of Commerce, has also been widely quoted to economically justify the EPE. Following is what Ken Anderson, GDOT, said in a memo to GDOTs Environmental Impact Study contractor about this study:
4/23/98: "There appear to be a number of discrepancies or inconsistencies in the information as presented The Bibb County basis appears to significantly overstate the number of jobs, based on the data cited The analysis in the document is indicated as being for a route of approximately 24 miles The route indicated therefore consists of approximately 10 miles of existing multi-lane controlled access on I-75 plus approximately 3 miles of wetland and TCP/federal lands The document indicates an estimated construction cost of $150 Million Regarding the number of construction jobs created GDOT does not keep or sort data that ties the number of construction employees used with construction contract value The total of 18,300 jobs is over the first two years, with a drop of the short-term construction jobs after the second year and a resulting permanent employment of 12,000 from that time forward For reference only, the Appalachian Scenic Corridor Study (rural north Georgia) economic analysis identified 1,740 direct new jobs and 1,170 indirect new jobs for the 180 mile long project assuming a new 4-lane facility". - (Memo from Ken Anderson to Mark Cheskey, HDR Engineering, Inc., Subject: Preliminary Economic Impact Analysis of the Eisenhower Parkway Extension/Fall Line Freeway (EEFF) on Bibb County, prepared by Middle GA Regional Development Center)).
No objective studies have been done regarding the natural, cultural or economic impacts of constructing the EPE versus enhancing and promoting Macons unique, nationally significant cultural and natural treasures for heritage tourism and revitalizing the Seventh Street industrial brownfields utilizing the existing Eisenhower Parkway Extension, which already provides convenient access to Seventh St. from I-75 (approx. 1-1/2 miles driving distance).
Many people who have not studied the issue closely think that extending the Eisenhower Parkway across the river will provide a speedy freeway between I-75 and I-16. They do not realize that there will be at least five traffic lights and several grade changes along this proposed corridor, making it no more convenient than staying on I-75/I-16, which is less than 1-1/2 miles further with no traffic lights and little grade change between the same points.
"But opposition to the roads crossing the Ocmulgee Old fields, now federally designated as a traditional cultural property, has not abated".
COMMENT: It has not abated because objections to this particularly damaging route have never been anwered. Also, too many people think the roads Needs and Purposes are invalid, that it is ridiculously expensive, and that it has totally unacceptable adverse impacts on Macons nationally significant natural/cultural resources and the irreplaceable ancient heritage of a minority population (American Indians).
Par. 4: The latest arguments are that building the highway across them would (1) damage the effect of the park upon its visitors by being visible and audible from its grounds and (2) block the 702-acre monument from absorbing an additional 1,300 acres said to have been envisioned in the initial authorization for the park signed 68 years ago.
COMMENT: These two latest arguments are not new. These arguments are valid. This raised highway would introduce aesthetic intrusions along the Macon Plateau Units last frontier; it would despoil wetlands adjacent to both park units, and it would forever end any possibility of adding this area to the National Monument without such an intrusion. The statement said to have been envisioned is highly prejudicial and seems calculated to move public opinion The parks enabling legislation does not equivocate. It clearly states that the park was created to protect and preserve 2,000 acres of lands commonly known as the Old Ocmulgee Fields.
As for the first point, the originally proposed route would pass hundreds of yards from both the monument and from the Lamar Mound site to the south. Interstate 16, completed decades ago, runs right along the southwest border of the monument property. All of the proposed routes would pass much farther from any part of the park.
COMMENT: According to the scales on aerial photos and USGS topo maps, the distance between the Macon Plateau and Lamar Units is approximately 6,000 feet, not over two miles as has been indicated by some highway proponents. The interchange for the preferred D alternatives would partially sit on the Scott-McCall Archaeological Preserve. The interchange for the second-most preferred (C) alternatives would be located almost completely on the Preserve, which Paragraphs 6 and 9 admit are to be added to the National Monument. Therefore, the highway would be within, not hundreds of yards from, the park and the Ocmulgee Old fields TCP. And, the E alternatives also cross the TCP and many acres of wetlands.
Saying that Interstate 16 runs right along the southwest border of the monument property soften the fact that I-16 went through a mile of the park well inside its western boundary. This berm for this highway, placed immediately across the river from the Macon Levee, drastically altered the floodplains hydrology. Former farm fields became wetlands. Access was cut off between the Macon Plateau Units main visitation area and the Ocmulgee River a primary resource for the 12,000-year continuum of people who left extensive evidence of their existence near its banks.
Years later, an Eagle Scout project produced the River Trail extending from the Great Temple Mound area to the river by going under I-16s Walnut Creek bridge. During the flood of 1994, a massive amount of water and debris were forced through this opening in the I-16 berm, again changing the hydrology and almost completely blocking the creeks channel. Walnut Creek now feeds an expanding wetland covering the former trail and its waters flow into the river through Boggy Branch. The parks scenic River Trail can only be replaced if funds are ever available to construct it on a boardwalk.
The Park Service does plan to add to the monument 300 donated acres of the Old Fields lying immediately southeast. The proposed interconnection of the freeway with I-16 would infringe on the southern tip of that property, but I-16 already does that. Still, possibly the exit could be relocated southward.
COMMENT: See Paragraph 5, above. The argument that I-16 already does that, fails to justify additional degradation. Even if the interconnection was relocated southward, it would still be located on the Ocmulgee Old Fields TCP and impact cultural and natural resources important to the TCP, Ocmulgee National Monument and Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, which originally planned to expand and encompass the wetlands in the Lamar Unit area until politics involving the Eisenhower Parkway Extension intervened (see letter in the Bond Swamp NWR Expansion Plan).
Par. 7: Both the interstate and a century-old embanked railroad line already separate the two sacred grounds. If the 1,000-acre remainder of the Old Fields lying between them were acquired to complete the supposedly envisioned 2,000-acre park, they would continue to separate it, freeway or no.
COMMENT: The boundaries of these two sacred grounds were arbitrarily delineated in 1936 based upon the amount of land that was possible to acquire during the Great Depression. Use of the words supposedly envisioned 2,000-acre park is calculated to move public opinion The existing Interstate highway and old railroad line amplify the reasons for not further degrading these nationally significant lands (Because a beautiful lady has a scar on her face, does that justify slashing her again?).
Par. 8: These latest arguments do not offer compelling reasons for rejecting the originally preferred route for safe and convenient cross-state access from Macon to Augusta and Columbus.
COMMENT: A vast number of citizens from the local area, the state, the USA and other nations do not agree with this statement. The question that must be answered unbiasedly by the Federal Highway Administration is: Is there any prudent, feasible alternative route for the cross-Macon section of the Fall Line Freeway?
The Ocmulgee Old Fields are, indeed, sacred land in every sense of the word. The questions that local interests, who refuse to consider any other route, should search their hearts and answer honestly are: Would we advocate the construction of a four-lane divided highway and interchange that would deface ancient Jerusalem? Valley Forge? Gettysburg Battlefield? Would we allow such a highway and interchange to be built over the site of the World Trade Center since this acreage is now vacant and would be the most-convenient route between two points? If not, why do Macon-Bibb Countys leaders fail to understand the term sacred land when it is applied to a place of transcendent importance to American Indians? There is no difference.
Par. 9: The focal 700 acres with their burial mounds, with 300 to be added, have already been preserved and held sacred. Native Americans and their local supporters continue to insist that the 1,000 acres surrounding them are also sacred and need to be withheld from any (further) encroachment.
COMMENT: Yes. See above. Again, 702 acres of the Ocmulgee Old Fields are fortuitously protected within the 657-acred Macon Plateau Unit and the 45-acre Lamar Mounds and Village Unit of Ocmulgee National Monument. An additional almost-300 acres, located adjacent to the Macon Plateau Unit have been donated to the nation. It was a Georgia Department of Transportations study that determined the national significance of, and resulted in boundaries for, the Ocmulgee Fields Traditional Cultural Property (District), actions which confirmed the sacredness of this place something already known to American Indians. Yes, these people, their local supporters, the National Register of Historic Places, the GDOT, the Federal Highway Administration, the National Parks and Conservation Association, the Georgia Center for Law in the Public Interest, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and others, do continue to insist that other lands outside the focal 700 acres with 300 to be added are also sacred. Many concerned citizens believe that if a highway can be bulldozed through the first Traditional Cultural Property east of the Mississippi River, no sacred place in the nation is safe.
According to the nations laws, lands within the TCP MUST be not NEED to be - withheld from any (further) encroachment unless there is no prudent, feasible alternative. Obviously, no other alternative will please the individuals who want the Eisenhower Parkway Extension so badly that they are willing to use flawed studies, attempt to intimidate others, or even flaunt the law, in order to get it. The final decision must not be based upon personal desires or porkbarrel interests, it must be based upon factual information impartially reviewed by the Federal Highway Administration. Any other course of action is unlawful and will result in litigation, which will bring adverse national attention to Macon. This is not just a local issue.
Par. 10: In effect, a compromise giving half a loaf to each of two irreconcilable religious and cultural views of land is already in place. Lets build the highway.
COMMENT: Destroying the integrity of ONM is not a compromise.
Religion does not enter at all into this controversy. To state that it involves two irreconcilable religious views is incorrect, unwarranted, and based upon stereotyping. Mr. Corson, a former student of divinity, should know that the majority of todays Muscogee (Creek) people are Christian, and many of their ancestors were Christian even before they were forcibly removed from Georgia in 1826. They and their supporters are not averse to well-planned land development.
The questions in the comment to Paragraph 8 should adequately demonstrate that there are also no irreconcilable cultural views of land involved, other than those held by individuals who are too ethnocentric, callous, or greedy to admit that some places are sacred and irreplaceable on a national scale because they commemorate the most precious heritage of all Americans, including minorities.
Even the economic views of this sacred land may not be irreconcilable, once local leaders clearly understand that heritage tourism is truly big business. It has immensely improved the quality of life and public image of many places, like Chattanooga and Charleston, that have identified, enhanced, and promoted their uniqueness. Macons 12,000-year continuum of people and their Fall Line environment relates to almost any theme - art, architecture, technology, subsistence, music, sports, cultural diversity, military, you name it. It is not unthinkable that Disney Enterprises, or some entrepreneur, could be induced to construct a Walk Thru Time theme park near the city that could point outward with pride to the real thing.
In the early 1990s, the Eisenhower Parkway was extended from Broadway to Seventh Street, providing convenient access to the old Seventh Street industrial brownfields at public expense. Many people believe this was a half a loaf compromise. Records and news articles show that at one time most people were satisfied with this extension until Tom Moreland, former Commissioner of GDOT (whose company now manages Macons Road Improvement Program), got the additional extension tacked on to the Fall Line Freeway. If Mr. Corson is referring to bridging the wetlands as half a loaf, what part of the loaf is he giving to American Indians and other citizens whose primary concern is the Ocmulgee Old Fields TCP?
The Eisenhower Parkway Extension is, and always has been, a local project intended to encourage industrial development in the vacant floodplain behind the Macon Levee. Many people realize that this kind of development in that area is not conducive to heritage tourism. After the flood of 1994, even some of those who once supported this plan now concede that it was a bad idea for entirely different reasons. Macon-Bibb County already has several half-vacant industrial parks, with others planned, which can accommodate smoke stacks and big trucks.
Macon must finally accept the truth about the Fall Line Freeway. For all intents and purposes the city lost out to Highway 96. It is currently well-known that truckers and many other travelers, who formerly came through the city, already utilize the Highway 96 leg of the Fall Line Freeway from Columbus to I-75 and continue east through Warner Robins to I-16, Savannah, and the Atlantic coast. It is also clear that the so-called freeway will serve only the Columbus-Augusta traffic that already comes through Macon. Before it is lost entirely to Highway 96, why not put Fall Line Freeway signs on the soon-to-be-improved by $100-million I-75/I16 interchange, construct a flyover ramp to Emery Highway during this project, and get on it. This route is only a mile and a half further to Highway 57 and would save taxpayers upwards of $150-million. Meanwhile, improve and beautify Broadway and Seventh Street into downtown Macon so local people are not ashamed for visitors to use them.
The Eisenhower Parkway Extension is not vital to Macons economic future. To become the showplace of the South that it should be, the city needs to unite the energy and vision of all its people. They must focus on truly important issues, such as quality education; public safety; clean business; expanded recreational opportunities; additional downtown renovations, and preserving, protecting and enhancing the citys fabulous cultural and natural legacy. Then, local citizens and all Americans - will get the whole loaf they deserve.
For your information and convenience, following is a current list of
URLs providing recent related information.
Press Releases, Articles, Editorials, Other:
Macon Telegraph article 3/25/02 http://www.macon.com/mld/macon/2928968.htm
Macon Telegraph editorial 3/26/02 http://www.macon.com/mld/macon/news/opinion/2933734.htm
(click on "Get Involved;" then click on "Ocmulgee" on the map)
http://www.hanksville.org/NAresources/urls3.php3 (web link submission site)
http://www.indiancountry.com/?1017148437 (Article about Sacred Lands)
Friends of Ocmulgee Old Fields Homepage
Webpage by - Lindsay Holliday