By DENNIS GRUBAUGH, Illinois Business Journal
Congressman Mike Bost and other dignitaries spoke in united fashion Tuesday morning on the significance of a new House bill seeking to declare the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site and related properties a national park.
Bost’s measure, called HR 3824, is a companion bill to one introduced in the U.S. Senate by Richard Durbin, D-Illinois.
Bost, a Republican from Taylorville who represents a wide area of Southwestern Illinois, said he is hopeful his own bill can be acted upon in this session of Congress.
Supporters have been attempting to get Cahokia Mounds declared a national park since at least 2011. Part of the complicating factor is that not all of the properties that would be included are contiguous, meaning adjacent, but all are of historical importance.
The bill would elevate the properties and create The Cahokia Mounds Mississippian Culture National Historical Park.
“National park status is the next logical step,” Bost said.
HeartLands Conservancy, an area conservation group, has been at the forefront of pushing to get the sites included as a unit of the National Park Service, which would protect the lands for future generations and protect the mounds as sacred burial sites.
The effort has drawn in the input of 12 Native American tribal nations, archaeologists and many elected and civic leaders, both locally and across the country.
“We’ve held over 13 public meetings, and 40 information tables and presentations,” said Mary Vandevord, president and CEO of HeartLands. “And we’ve gathered thousands of letters of support.”
While the acreage of Cahokia Mounds would be the highlight of the area, the study area also includes potential sites in East St. Louis, Dupo, Mitchell and Lebanon in Illinois and sites in North and South St. Louis.
“These areas uniquely and holistically represent the Mississippian culture,” Vandevord said. “In fact, they represent the most significant and unsurpassed example of the time period. The study recommends that Cahokia Mounds and thematically connected mound sites should be elevated to a non-contiguous national historical park and that only the land from willing donors and sellers would be included in that park.”
Bost said his bill is in part based on other bills that have focused on noncontiguous park lands.
PHOTO: Congressman Mike Bost speaks at a press event at the Cahokia Mounds Historic Site near Collinsville on Tuesday morning.