St. Clair County seeks national status for Cahokia Mounds

News-DemocratApril 28, 2014 

— The St. Clair County Board is calling on Congress to name Cahokia Mounds America's newest national park.

The site of a pre-Columbian civilization that flourished a thousand years ago, Cahokia Mounds would become known as the Mississippian Culture National Historical Park, according to a resolution unanimously approved Monday. The resolution also asks President Barack Obama designate the site a National Monument under the Antiquities Act.

St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern said the resolution intended to support an effort to protect the mounds and place the historic site in the national spotlight.

"Cahokia Mounds already is in the national spotlight but this immortalizes that and takes it to national status," Kern said.

The County Board resolution follows similar recommendations issued by Gov. Pat Quinn and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

The proposed national designation would not turn over the 2,500-acre, state historic site to the federal government. It would remain administered by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

The hope is the designation will link together the 120-plus mounds scattered throughout the metro-east to boost tourism, according to Chris Willis with the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

"We're looking for the National Park Service to declare a trail or zone linking all these various mounds together," Willis said. "We are hoping to have more cooperation amongst them and some sort of attempt to have signage or maps to let people know that if they are interested in this, then they would be interested in a site five miles away."

The current historic site near Collinsville hosts a 100-foot-tall earthen mound called "Monks Mound" that served ceremonial and functional purposes. Archeologists believe up to 30,000 people once lived in the Native American city.

Willis said he does not believe such a designation would affect residents living within the current historic site.

In 1964, the National Park Service named Cahokia Mounds a National Historic Landmark. In 1982, the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organization named it a World Heritage Site.

In other action, the County Board approved a request from the Southwestern Illinois Flood Prevention District Council to add 10-percent funding contingencies to contracts for upgrading flood protection levees in Madison, St. Clair and Monroe counties.

The total amount of funding contingencies adds up to $3.82 million, according to documents provided the board.

The largest projects calling for the contingency funds include contracts to build berms, relief wells and drainage systems at:

* Fish Lake and Prairie DuPont levee districts, $12.5 million

* Wood River Drainage and Levee District, $10 million

* Metro-East Sanitary District, $8.25 million

The board also approved 25 appointments to a variety of fire, water and street lighting districts, including Gregory J. Simmons to the Signal Hill Fire Protection District.

Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at dkelley@bnd.com or 618-239-2501.

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