NPCA is pursuing a multi-part strategy to connect and protect public lands along 50 miles of the Ocmulgee River flowing south from Macon. Public lands in this corridor are an incredible asset to the region and include Ocmulgee National Monument, Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, and the Echeconnee Creek, Oaky Woods, and Ocmulgee State Wildlife Management Areas.
To date, realization of the full range of conservation, recreation, and tourism benefits of these special places to the middle Georgia community and economy has been hindered by a pattern of fragmented and uncoordinated multi-agency management. But this situation can be improved. As one of the wildest remaining places in the Georgia landscape, the river corridor south of Macon holds great potential to become a top recreation and tourism destination for millions of Georgians and visitors to enjoy as they paddle, fish, hike and hunt.
NPCA and its Macon partner, the Ocmulgee National Park & Preserve Initiative, are actively promoting interagency dialog and avenues for greater collaboration; the goal being to expand conservation, education, interpretation, and appropriate recreational access. Sponsors supporting this effort include the Community Foundation of Central Georgia, Bragg Jam, Cox Communications, NewTown Macon, the Ocmulgee Land Trust, and The Trust for Public Land, with assistance coming from The Conservation Fund’s green infrastructure planning program.
On June 7th, NPCA hosted a kickoff meeting in Macon, bringing together representatives from the National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Robins Air Force Base, and the U.S. Forest Service. This was the first such meeting of its kind in middle Georgia. Among the questions examined were:
- What regional cross-boundary issues and challenges are important to the agencies? How might collaboration around these issues and challenges improve management outcomes?
- Where does the Ocmulgee fit in the context of current federal and state conservation and recreation initiatives? How might the agencies coordinate to better align with national and state trends and priorities?
- What other national examples exist of multi-agency, co-managed landscapes, and how might they serve as models for middle Georgia?
In the weeks ahead, we intend to establish an informal working group to identify potential action items that could form the basis for a corridor-wide inter-agency partnership. While the specifics of this partnership are still to come, NPCA will continue facilitating the dialog and working toward consensus on concrete steps toward a more integrated, interactive, and accessible public landscape in middle Georgia.