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26 February 2006
Cahokia Mounds gets $837,800 for preservation

The Cahokia Mounds State Historical Site (Illinois, USA) says it is inching closer to its goal of preserving one of the world's most precious archeological gardens. The site was awarded $837,800 by the state to purchase some of the remaining privately owned properties that lie within the 4,000 acres of original prehistoric city.
     The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, which owns the site, has about 2,200 acres of the original city protected. The new state funding will go toward buying three or four key pieces of land and other properties around historic site, agency director Bob Coomer said. "It could possibly cost tens of millions of dollars to buy all the remaining land, but this is definitely a step in the right direction," he said. Coomer would not reveal which properties the agency would focus on, but said they are "in-hold properties," which are entirely surrounded or nearly surrounded by protected portions of the site.
     The state began to buy back privately owned land in 1925. A surge in development in the area has caused it move more aggressively to preserve the site. In the mid-1980s, the state committed $5 million for land acquisition that included buying back about 70 house lots from a Collinsville subdivision. Since then, the only other major acquisition effort came last year when former state Sen. Evelyn Bowles of Edwardsville awarded the Cahokia Mounds Museum Society with a $250,000 grant. That grant led to the purchase of 44 house lots and portions of 3 mounds.
     "The land was being gobbled up by farmers, subdivisions, supermarkets and shopping centers," said assistant manager Bill Iseminger, who has worked at the site since 1971. "A lot of the original site has been impacted. We're trying to save it from future development."
     The Cahokia Mounds was the largest prehistoric American Indian city, with between 10,000 and 20,000 living there. Of the 120 mounds that once existed, about 80 remain and about 70 are owned by the state.

Source: Belleville News-Democrat (17 February 2006)

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