The possible sell off of state heritage preserve property at Butler Island should House Bill 906 become law is distressing. The land where so many enslaved people toiled and died so tragically, buried in shallow, unmarked graves, is indeed sacred ground, and should never be opened to private development.
HB 906 would allow the state to sell up to 15 acres of heritage preserves, previously reserved for public use, to private entities including commercial ventures. The ostensible impetus for the legislation was to raise funds for preserving a state-owned historic house in Thomasville managed by a nonprofit lacking the resources to renovate it. While admirable in intent, this massive overkill will allow the state to carve out 15 acre slices of historic and wilderness sites across Georgia to be sold to the highest bidder.
Many heritage preserves in this area could potentially be affected. Hofwyl-Broadfield in Glynn, Sapelo Island in McIntosh, Crooked River in Camden, Ossabaw Island in Chatham, and Fort Morris in Liberty could all potentially lose 15 acre chunks to private developers if this legislation passes the Senate and is signed by the governor.
Like Butler Island, important Native American sites like the Etowah and Kolomoki Mounds, and New Echota, the former Cherokee capital where the Trail of Tears officially began, must be preserved intact so we may continue to learn from our state’s checkered and often tragic history.
For future generations of Georgians, our state senators must vote “no” on HB 906.