Group: Cahokia Mounds should be designated national historic site

News-DemocratMarch 6, 2014 

— Cahokia Mounds is continuing its public hearings on a proposal to become a nationally recognized historic site.

HeartLands Conservancy is conducting a series of public hearings on a proposal to elevate the Cahokia Mounds site to a national designation. For 18 months, HeartLands has been working with Native American tribes, government agencies and nonprofits on the feasibility study funded through a grant.

But the proposal would not necessarily mean Cahokia Mounds would become a national park like the Arch, according to Bill Iseminger, assistant site manager and Cahokia Mounds expert. He said the state is not willing to give up the mounds for now, so whatever designation occurs would be a cooperative endeavor.

Iseminger said the conversation about national designation for Cahokia Mounds began during the salvage archaeology project to find whatever could be found along the path for the new Mississippi River bridge. "They could only excavate about 10 percent of what was there along the highway's right of way," Iseminger said.

The discussions taking place about national designation as a heritage corridor, protected site or whatever it ends up being would extend beyond the existing heritage site, which is a United Nations World Heritage Site, but operated as an Illinois state park. It would include separate sites in various metro-east municipalities that are considered at risk if development encroaches on them.

If national designation does occur, Iseminger said, it will take years to accomplish because there are several different governments involved.

"But it's a step in the right direction to help preserve" the mounds, Iseminger said.

The public can speak at the last public hearing, scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 19 at the Cahokia Mounds Interpretive Center. There will be a short presentation, followed by a work session.

Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at edonald@bnd.com or 618-239-2507.

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