National Park Service

State of the Park Reports

State of the Park Report for Ocmulgee National Monument

Executive Summary

The Earthlodge at Ocmulgee National Monument
The Earthlodge at Ocmulgee National Monument

The mission of the National Park Service is to preserve unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of national parks for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. NPS Management Policies (2006) state that "The Service will also strive to ensure that park resources and values are passed on to future generations in a condition that is as good as, or better than, the conditions that exist today."

As part of the stewardship of national parks for the American people, the NPS has begun to develop State of the Park reports to assess the overall status and trends of each park's resources. The NPS will use this information to improve park priority setting and to synthesize and communicate complex park condition information to the public in a clear and simple way.

The purpose of this State of the Park report for Ocmulgee National Monument is to:

  1. Provide to visitors and the American public a snapshot of the status and trend in the condition of a park's priority resources and values;
  2. Summarize and communicate complex scientific, scholarly, and park operations factual information and expert opinion using non-technical language and a visual format;
  3. Highlight park stewardship activities and accomplishments to maintain or improve the State of the Park;
  4. Identify key issues and challenges facing the park to help inform park management planning.

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The purpose of Ocmulgee National Monument is to preserve, protect, study, and commemorate the site of more than 12,000 years of continuous human habitation by multiple cultures and peoples, and to study and interpret the interconnectedness of those cultures to the landscape of the Ocmulgee Old Fields.

Significance statements express why the park unit's resources and values are important enough to warrant national park unit designation. Ocmulgee National Monument is significant because:

  • Ocmulgee National Monument preserves evidence of one of the longest periods of human habitation at any one site in the National Park System. Occupation is illustrated by prehistoric earthen mounds, including the only known spiral mound in the country; a restored ceremonial earth lodge with original clay floor; prehistoric trenches; an early colonial trading post; and Civil War earthworks.
  • Ocmulgee National Monument has yielded artifacts from every major period of American Indian history in the Southeast, beginning with the Paleo-Indians and followed by a succession of cultural groups (10,000 BCE– present) who lived at the Ocmulgee Old Fields.
  • The investigation and recovery of artifacts and information at the Ocmulgee Old Fields was instrumental in the development of scientific archeology. The monument is the site of one of the largest archeological investigations in North American history.
  • The Ocmulgee Old Fields Project (1933–1941) employed one of the largest numbers of workers on an archeological investigation in the history of the Works Progress Administration (over 800, including an all-female African American crew). The work at this site served as a field school for several archeologists who impacted the field of archeology for generations.
  • Ocmulgee National Monument possesses one of the largest collections of recovered artifacts (approximately 2.5 million) in the National Park System, together with associated maps and other documentation.

Examples of stewardship activities and accomplishments by park staff and partners to maintain or improve the condition of priority park resources and values for this and future generations are listed in Chapter 3 of this report. The Park continues to successfully interact with Federally Recognized Indian Tribes who consider the site sacred. Numerous consultations and the Park's signature annual event, the Ocmulgee Indian Celebration, demonstrates this success. Completed surveys reveal significant Natural Resources remain intact at the Park. Exotic vegetation removal work has cleared 200 acres. Park staff has cataloged and processed over 500,000 objects and archives in the last five years. Lamar Mound A and Civil War earthwork have been protected by the removal of large trees. The Curatorial Storage facility has been enhanced and improved. Park staff has developed 21 new wayside exhibits, a cell phone tour, 50 site bulletins, completely new museum exhibits, and revised the 30 year-old Lantern Light Tour program. In December 2012, the staff presented programs commemorating the Park's 75th Anniversary. Park staff developed a new HVAC system design which could significantly improve efficiency. Park restrooms have been upgraded with low water flow fixtures installed. High speed internet access is now available to all staff. The Park has recently produced a Foundation Document, State of the Park Report and is in the process of producing a Boundary Adjustment Study.

The Park holds the largest museum collection in the National Park System and most likely possesses the largest backlog of uncataloged material. This condition places these irreplaceable resources at risk. Relations with Indian Tribal groups are critical due to the status of the Park as a sacred site. An on-going Boundary Adjustment Study will address adjacent threatened sites as well as the vulnerability of the detached Lamar Unit. Recent understanding of the value of the Park's natural resources highlights the lack of resources available to protect and preserve them. The hydrology of the park is not understood and park infrastructure appears to be threatened. The Park has long-standing identification issues with the local community due to confusion over the name of the site (Ocmulgee National Monument vs. Ocmulgee Indian Mounds). The local community believes the Park needs a new entrance, closer to downtown attractions. Macon and Bibb County are forming a new consolidated government with unknown impacts on longstanding local relationships. Aging infrastructure issues include the failing Park Road and Visitor Center roof. Visitor Center roof leaking threatens structural integrity and museum exhibits, resulting mold growth threatens the health of staff and the public. A 2011 arson fire has left the Park's 150 year old Dunlap House in need of restoration. This historic structure is one of the oldest in the Macon community.

Summary Table

The summary table, below, and the supporting information that follows, provide an overall assessment of the condition of priority resources and values at Ocmulgee National Monument based on scientific and scholarly studies and expert opinion. Reference conditions that represent "healthy" ecosystem parameters (currently derived from our understanding of historic conditions), and regulatory standards (such as those related to air or water quality) provide the rationale to describe current resource status. In coming years, rapidly evolving information regarding climate change and associated effects will inform our goals for managing park resources, and may alter how we describe the trend in condition of park resources. Thus, reference conditions, regulatory standards, and our judgment about resource status or trend may evolve as the rate of climate change accelerates and we respond to novel conditions. In this context, the status and trends documented here provide a useful point-in-time baseline to inform our understanding of emerging change, as well as a synthesis to share as we build broader climate change response strategies with partners.

The Status and Trend symbols used in the summary table below and throughout this report are summarized in the following key. The background color represents the current condition status, the direction of the arrow summarizes the trend in condition, and the thickness of the outside line represents the degree of confidence in the assessment. In some cases, the arrow is omitted because data are not sufficient for calculating a trend (e.g., data from a one-time inventory or insufficient sample size).

Condition Status Trend in Condition Confidence in
Assessment
Condition of resource warrants significant concern Warrants Significant Concern Condition is improving Condition is Improving High confidence in the assessment High
Condition of resource warrants moderate concern Warrants Moderate Concern Condition is unchanging Condition is Unchanging Medium confidence in the assessment Medium
Resource is in good condition Resource is in Good Condition Condition is deteriorating Condition is Deteriorating Low confidence in the assessment Low

Examples of how the symbols should be interpreted:

Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment. Resource is in good condition; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment.
Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment. Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment.
Condition of resource warrants significant concern; trend in condition is unknown or not applicable; low confidence in the assessment. Condition of resource warrants significant concern; trend in condition is unknown or not applicable; low confidence in the assessment.
Priority Resource or Value Condition Status/Trend Rationale
Natural Resources
Air Quality Condition of resource warrants significant concern; condition is improving; medium confidence in the assessment. Estimated ozone, average visibility, and nitrogen and sulfur wet deposition levels in the park for 2005–2009 warrant significant concern based on NPS Air Resource Division benchmarks. Learn more »
Geology and Soils Condition of resource warrants significant concern; trend in condition is unknown or not applicable; high confidence in the assessment. Soils in the park are deep and poorly drained with moderate to high erodibility. There is evidence of common, severe bank erosion and high stream sedimentation for the Ocmulgee River through the park. Soil acid deposition is high. Learn more »
Water Quantity and Quality Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; trend in condition is unknown or not applicable; high confidence in the assessment. The five streams that flow through OCMU show signs of degradation from sedimentation, bank erosion, and trash accumulation. The two major streams, segments of the Ocmulgee River and its major tributary Walnut Creek, have been designated as impaired waters for biota and/or general recreation on the state's 303(d) list. The causes of impairment have been identified as urban nonpoint pollution, in particular, excessive sediment loading and high fecal coliform bacterial densities. The Ocmulgee River segment is also impaired for fish consumption because of high PCB content. Learn more »
Flora and Fauna Resource is in good condition; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment. The park has a high species richness and diversity of amphibians and birds, with 25 species of amphibians and 172 species of birds known to occur in the park. Twelve species of invasive plants identified by the Georgia Exotic Pest Plant Council as being of concern occur in the park. Feral hogs and their destructive effects on native habitats are rare in the main unit of the park, but hogs are still common in the Lamar Unit where control measures are more difficult to implement. Learn more »
Dark Night Sky Condition of resource warrants significant concern; condition is deteriorating; medium confidence in the assessment. The modeled Anthropogenic Light Ratio (ALR), a measure of light pollution calculated as the ratio of Average Anthropogenic Sky Glow to Average Natural Sky Luminance, was 7.5 which is considered of significant concern. The park is within the city of Macon, GA and is within 100 km of the Atlanta metropolitan area. Learn more »
Adjacent Land Cover and Use Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment. The percent of lands surrounding the park that are used for agricultural use increased from 3.8% to 12% between 1992 and 2006. Areas classified as forest or wetlands decreased from 71.2% to 66% during the same time period. Human population density increased by 20.8% in the area surrounding the park between 1992 and 2010. Learn more »
Cultural Resources
Archeological Resources Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment. Currently in ASMIS there are 22 identified sites and 26 sub sites. As of 5/28/13, 43 are in good condition, four in fair condition, and one in poor condition. The Lamar site is in a floodplain, and as a result, can never be rated higher than fair. The earthlodge has some issues with cracking and the roof is deteriorating. Learn more »
Cultural Anthropology Condition of resource warrants significant concern; condition is improving; medium confidence in the assessment. An Ethnographic Overview and Assessment study is in progress (2013). The park needs a Cultural Affiliation Study. The park is the first Traditional Cultural Property (TCP) designated east of the Mississippi River (1999). Learn more »
Cultural Landscapes Resource is in good condition; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment. Cultural Landscape Inventories for the Lamar Site and OCMU were completed in 2008, with Cultural Landscape Reports completed in 2007. Per the CLR, the landscape retains integrity given the extensive period of significance, continual occupation, and historic park development. Exotic and invasive plants are a continuing threat to the park resources. Archeological sites are impacted by sedimentation and erosion, and the spiral ramp is threatened by erosion. The Lamar Site is threatened by flooding. Learn more »
Historic Structures Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment. All 18 of the park's historic structures were documented for the National Register and contribute to the Ocmulgee National Monument Historic District, which was originally listed in 1976. In 1996, an amendment was submitted to and accepted by the Keeper, which expanded the period of significance to include the period of park development and added the visitor center and commemorative flagpole to the district. Presently, the district is listed under criteria A, C, and D, and represents four separate periods of significance, A.D. 900–100, A.D. 1250–1650, 1690–1715, and 1936–1951. In the 1996 amendment, 5 structures were listed as being non-contributing. Learn more »
History Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment. The Administrative History published in 1985 needs to be updated, and all of the National Register documentation done in 1996 needs to be updated. The park's List of Classified Structure (LCS) data are current. Learn more »
Museum Collections Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment. The park museum collections are extensive and the archeological collections are the largest in the NPS. They have always been recognized as an important resource for the site and by researchers. Funding requests have been submitted to support cataloging of a backlog of more than 1.8 million artifacts as well as long term preservation and management. Archival collections document the intensive archeological work and management of these significant resources. Learn more »
Visitor Experience
Number of Visitors Resource is in good condition; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment. The total of 120,025 visitors to the park in 2012 is 7% higher than the 5-year average of 111,993 visitors for 2007–2011. Learn more »
Visitor Satisfaction Resource is in good condition; condition is unchanging; medium confidence in the assessment. Based on the standard visitor satisfaction survey conducted each year, the percentage of visitors satisfied in 2012 was 96.0%, similar to the 5-year average of 97.0% for 2007–2011. Learn more »
Interpretive and Education Programs – Talks, Tours, and Special Events Resource is in good condition; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment. The number of Ranger-led programs and the number of participants has increased during the past 5 years. The Junior Ranger program participation has increased steadily, with more than 2,000 children receiving the Junior Ranger badge in the past 5 years. The Ocmulgee Indian Celebration has been held for the past 23 years, with a record 19,500 participants in 2012. The park is participating in the Civil War 150th anniversary. Learn more »
Interpretive Media – Brochures, Exhibits, Signs, and Website Resource is in good condition; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment. The park has replaced 5 outdated wayside signs and added 21 new waysides in the past five years. Visitor Center exhibits were updated in 2009. The park website is updated on a regular basis and is visited by thousands of visitors annually. Facebook and Twitter social media sites have been developed and are maintained on a daily basis. Learn more »
Accessibility Resource is in good condition; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment. The Visitor Center is accessible to visitors in wheelchairs, and the park orientation film has closed caption. The park brochure is made available in 15 languages. Learn more »
Safety Resource is in good condition; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment. The safety or park visitors and staff is a priority, and the overall number of safety and law enforcement incidents is low. The majority of incidents occur during special events when there is high visitation. Park staff receives CPR and AED training annually, and the response time from local emergency medical services personnel is 5 minutes. Learn more »
Partnerships Resource is in good condition; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment. In 2012, 660 volunteers contributed more than 4,000 hours to help with park stewardship. The park maintains an average of 15 partners each year for the Indian Celebration. New partnerships have been developed each year for other programs and activities. Learn more »
Park Infrastructure
Overall Facility Condition Index Condition of resource warrants significant concern; condition is improving; high confidence in the assessment. The 62 assets at Ocmulgee National Monument have an overall FCI of 0.175, which is Poor based on industry and NPS standards. The poor condition is primarily a result of deferred maintenance on the park roads and parking areas. A number of improvements to the park's trail system have been made in recent years. Learn more »
Energy Consumption Resource is in good condition; condition is unchanging; high confidence in the assessment. Energy usage (BTUs per gross square footage of buildings) at the park in 2012 was 8% higher than the average for the previous 4 years. The replacement this year of part of the HVAC system at the Visitor Center has already resulted in a reduction in energy consumption in recent months. Learn more »
Water Consumption Condition of resource warrants moderate concern; condition is deteriorating; high confidence in the assessment. Water consumption at the park in 2012 was 23.6% higher than the 4-year average for 2008–2011. Higher water use was needed to establish a new area of grass for the Indian Celebration in 2012, and for landscaping during the recent drought. Learn more »

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Last Updated: September 19, 2014 Contact Webmaster