Congressman Passman Discusses Issues, Political Frustrations With Setting Up Initial Poverty Point “Deal.” May 11, 1963

This was an interesting article detailing some of the early challenges and the politics involved with the creation of Poverty Point as a historic park. Poverty Point has now become known as one of the crown jewels for our entire region in Northeast Louisiana. But there were certainly challenges to overcome in the early days. I am posting for the purposes of historical reference.

Originally printed May, 11, 1963. The Richland Beacon-News. Rayville, Louisiana. May 1, 1963, Saturday. Page 4

Louisiana’s veteran Congressman Otto E. Passman today again gave assurance that plans for development and operation of the Poverty Point site in West Carroll Parish as a national monument do not involve factors of “racial integration, youth corps camps, or the expropriation of property.”

Former U.S. Congressman Otto Passman, Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District

‘It is indeed regrettable,” he said, “that such misrepresentations are being circulated. He also deplored what he termed “responses to political expediency on the part of a few state legislators, without adequate knowledge of the overall aspects of the program, proposed for Poverty Point, whose actions are having the effect of undermining plans for the preservation of a great historic culture, the establishment of a national park that Louisiana could justifiably be proud of, and the creation, of a tourist attraction for the area which would be the equivalent, economically of a 1000- employee factory payroll.”

Congrressman Passman express the opinion that “these officials are, unfortunately, trying to please maybe a dozen or so people, who likewise obviously do not under stand the fair approach to the project.” He said that a “top echelon official” in Louisiana had openly acknowledged to him that “we are trying to satisfy these people, so maybe the state could purchase these few acres and set up a little park.” But, Congressman Passman added, such an attitude is contrary to the officially expressed policy of the State Parks and Recreation Commission regarding Poverty Point. He pointed out that the Commission had not only adopted a resolution encouraging national legislation to have the National Park Service, under the Department of the Interior, acquire, develop and maintain the area, but had also urged that it be done as soon as possible, so that this vast and important monument may be preserved.”

Under plans for development of Poverty Point as a national monument, a park area of approximately 1,400 acres (revised downward from 2,100 acres) is contemplated. While moves being advanced by the state legislators to whom Congressman Passman -referred call for an area of approximately 300 acres.

The State Bond and Tax Com mission has received approval, in response to a mail ballot sponsored by Rep. Lonnie Richmond of West Carroll Parish, of the appropriation of $50,000 for the purchase of “25 to 30 acres” for a Poverty Point park, according current published reports. Congressman Passman has introduced a bill in the U. S. House of Representatives, providing for the establishment of Poverty Point as national monument, covering an area of approximately 1,400 acres. Congressman Passman today issued this explanatory statement: “The National Park Service, which has been developing, maintaining and operating these, projects for 150 years, has indicated that a minimum of about 1,400 acres and approximately $1.5 million would be required in order to properly develop Poverty Point into a national-interest tourist attraction, and a national landmark that would meet established standards. Under this process, we would have something of which all Louisianians and our fellow Americans, could justifiably be proud.

“The park then would be listed as a national attraction by the National Park Service and publicized in all 50 states of the Union and in many foreign countries. This type of publicity is what would attract an estimated minimum of 80,000 tourists a year to the park; and if each tourist spent only $20 daily in tourist courts and motels, restaurants, automobile service stations, gift shops, and other establishments in the vicinity of the park location, this alone would amount to the expenditure of $1.6 million annually, which would be the equivalent of a factory employing 1,000 people at the local wage scale.

“I want the public to know that I will push the plans for the National Park Service to develop this site, with a thorough understanding in advance that racial integration is not involved, youth corps camps are not involved, and the expropriation of property is not involved.

I refuse to play petty politics with a program which is so important and valuable, and in the public interest, as is the Point Point project – one of the most significant archaeological sites in North America. Those persons, whether through inexperience or inadequate information, or for whatever the reason, who have yielded to the voices of a few and accordingly, are taking actions to block this development, will, I believe, eventually recognize the error of the course they are following. At that time, I hope that no hard feelings will remain, and that the case will be closed.”

Poverty Point is the site of an Indian culture, pre-dating the birth of Christ.

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