By Abigail Loop
Talks with President Barack Obama’s administration will soon decide if Waco will become home to a national park.
Jeff Goodman, program director for the City of Waco Parks and Recreation Department, said the Waco Mammoth Site holds the nation’s only recorded discovery of a nursery herd of Columbian Pleistocene mammoths and was designed on national park standards.
“We talked with the National Park Service back in 2007 and have recently been in talks with the National Parks Conservation Association,” Goodman said. “Now the plan is to bring this to D.C. and the director of the park service.”
Goodman said after Waco City Council approved a resolution to make the site a national monument, a group of people from the conservation association, Waco and Baylor decided to plan a trip to Washington, D.C.
“The support is being channeled to D.C. and the director of the park service,” Goodman said. “I’m highly optimistic.”
Suzanne Dixon, senior director of regional operations for the National Parks Conservation Association, said the partnership that was formed between the city of Waco, Baylor and the park service has been an effective approach in reaching the goal of the site achieving a national park status.
“I feel really confident about the site becoming a national monument,” Dixon said. “The best thing was for the park service to lead with the city of Waco and Baylor.“
Dixon said she expects that the significance of this site will have an effect on the people in D.C.
“This is something that is of national significance,” she said. “It’s the first and only nursery herd. We need to tell that story.”
Goodman said he thinks the park will put Waco on a national scene as the site receives more support.
“Having backing from the local community and Baylor makes all this feasible,” he said. “Bringing national recognition to this site is the piece of the puzzle that’s missing.”
Reagan King, director of the Waco Mammoth Site, agreed with Goodman and said the site would further economic growth in Waco as well.
“It would be an absolute boost in tourism,” King said. “We’ve only been open for about five years and we receive on average about 19,000 visitors yearly.”
While meetings with the Obama administration are planned for next month, Dixon said it is uncertain when a decision will be reached.
“It’s hard to say when it will happen,” she said. “The park service would have to come to Waco as the next step, but with the support of the city, a testament to the dedication of the Waco community can be seen. Once people see this powerful story and the public support that’s shown, the impact can be seen.”