Press Release Dec 17, 2014

New economic impact study of Ocmulgee River Corridor to support growth and community engagement in Central Georgia

National Parks Conservation Association to help propel economic effort on proposed Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve with $74,800 from Knight Foundation

MACON, Ga. — To highlight the potential economic and environmental value that a national park could bring to Central Georgia, the National Parks Conservation Association, in partnership with Macon’s Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve Initiative, today announced plans to commission an economic impact study of the Ocmulgee River Corridor. The plan is supported by $74,800 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The Ocmulgee National Monument is a premier historic site in Central Georgia, featuring centuries-old Native American mound structures, as well as rich natural resources. The river corridor provides outdoor recreation opportunities for hunters, anglers, hikers, bird watchers and paddlers. Macon’s Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve Initiative aims to build strong support for designating the public lands in the corridor as the Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve. The enhanced designation carries with it the potential for improved recreation, heritage tourism and conservation, ultimately creating greater opportunities for economic growth.

For the next 12 months, the National Parks Conservation Association will work with researchers to measure the economic value of current recreation and tourism activities in the Ocmulgee River Corridor. The assessment will also include an analysis of the potential benefits that would result from connecting existing federal and state public lands between Macon and Hawkinsville as a national park and preserve.

“Not only is the Ocmulgee National Monument the single most visited attraction in Central Georgia, but the river corridor is a treasure trove of underappreciated resources, where history and culture combine with wildlife and nature to form one of the last best landscapes in the southeast,” said Chris Watson, Southeast senior program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. “We are extremely happy to have the opportunity to conduct further analysis into how a national park and preserve designation would promote travel and tourism, the recreation economy, and business growth and vitality for Macon and the mid-state region.”

“This is incredible news for Central Georgia,” said Brian Adams, president of the Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve Initiative and a Macon-based attorney. “With the continued support of Knight Foundation, we are now in a position to gather the hard economic data that will further assist decision-makers in moving forward with Georgia’s first and only national park and preserve. The impact this national park would have on our local economy and the recreation opportunities it would provide to our community make it a ‘no-brainer’ from our perspective.”

“A National Park and Preserve designation for Ocmulgee could have far-ranging benefits for Macon and beyond; it carries with it the promise of new opportunities, economic vitality, and recognition of the area’s rich cultural and historical legacy,” said Beverly Blake, Knight Foundation program director for Macon. “The hope is that the study will provide a clearer picture of the potential impact the designation could have on communities in the region, giving decision makers a powerful information tool.”

The Ocmulgee National Monument and Georgia’s other national park sites, like Cumberland Island National Seashore and Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, together attracted more than seven million visitors from around the world in 2013 and produced more than $345 million in economic benefits from tourism within the surrounding communities. In addition, the Outdoor Industry Association found that Georgia’s paddling, fishing, hunting, and other outdoor recreation generate more than $23 billion annually; they supports more than 231,000 jobs and generate $1.4 billion in state and local tax revenue.

Support for the National Parks Conservation Association forms one part of Knight Foundation’s efforts to expand opportunities in Macon, while fostering talent retention and attraction. Since 2006 Knight has invested more than $17 million in Macon.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. KnightFoundation.org.

About National Parks Conservation Association
Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than one million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.

Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve Initiative : is a community-based group of Middle Georgia citizens working together to expand the current site of the Ocmulgee National Monument into the first National Park and Preserve east of the Mississippi River. We encourage you to explore the Indian Mounds, Bond Swamp Wildlife Refuge, and the Ocmulgee River, which are jewels of history, culture, wildlife and natural resources.