Madison County is home to many unique locations and histories. Among them is the ancient and awe-inspiring Cahokia Mounds, the old 2,200 square-acre home of the Mississippians. These mound-building people lived, worked, and worshipped atop the mounds between 1000 and 1400 A.D.; sadly, many of the mounds were plowed over by farmers in the 1800s.
The largest mound, which is visited the most, is the 100-foot-tall Monks Mound, which contains approximately 22 million cubic feet of earth and is the largest prehistoric earthen construction in the Americas. Once you climb the 154-step stairway to the top, you are greeted with beautiful views of your surroundings, including the city of St. Louis on the western horizon.
Recently, Senator Durbin asked President Obama to make Cahokia Mounds a national park, citing the nonprofit HeartLands Conservancy’s study, which had concluded that a partnership between the National Park Service and the state of Illinois would be both feasible and beneficial for Cahokia Mounds. Several other local elected officials and civic groups have endorsed this action, including Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and the St. Louis Chapter of the Archaeological Institute of America.
What does this mean for Madison County? Well, it means a lot of really great things, if Cahokia Mounds becomes a national park. First of all, attendance could increase as much as 10-40%, depending on the programs that the site would put in place. This means that an additional 40,000 to 70,000 people would visit annually. In addition, this new title would help preserve and protect this history of our area.
Preservation and higher attendance would also generate more money and job opportunities in Madison County due to visitor spending. The National Park Service’s Social Science Program and the U.S. Geological Survey measure visitors spending effects annually. These agencies calculated that tourists spent $15.7 billion in local gateway regions, which are defined as communities within 60 miles of a park, nationally. This spending created 277,000 jobs, $10.3 billion in labor income, $17.1 billion in value added, and $29.7 billion in output. Imagine what increased income could do to our already wonderful county!
At this point, it’s up to Congress and President Obama to make the final decision. Let’s hope that our very own Cahokia Mounds will become a national park!
Image Source [http://cahokiamounds.org]