Waco City Council on Tuesday is set to pave the way for a Waco Mammoth Site national monument by relinquishing 5 acres of the site along with all excavated remains to the federal government.
The agreement would leave 102 acres of adjacent land in the hands of the city but designate it as “administrative land” within the national park system.
National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis earlier this month said he would recommend the dig site to be designated a national monument sometime this year under the Antiquities Act.
But first, the site has to be ready for the federal government to accept. As part of the transfer, the city also is spending $17,602 for a survey, updated environmental study and closing costs.
“This is a big step,” City Manager Dale Fisseler said. “It’s a step necessary for the designation to be made.”
Under the agreement, the city would continue to own and maintain the 102 acres outside the 5-acre dig site, including the visitors center and gift shop.
But it could cede other parts to the federal government in the future if the dig site needs to be expanded.
City officials expect to work out an agreement with the National Park Service delineating how federal and local governments will work together to run the site. The city now maintains the Waco Mammoth Site as an educational attraction and pays for a staff to do tours and run programs.
The city staff will continue working at the site, but the National Park Service might have at least one staff person on-site, said Peggy McCart, acting parks and recreation director.
McCart said the mammoth site project has always been a partnership among city, Baylor University and Waco Mammoth Foundation officials, and the National Park Service would be one more partner.
“The biggest change would be the National Park Service plaque on the front gate,” she said. “We’re hoping tourism would increase with the designation and get us on the national radar. . . . From what we understand, a lot of people vacation from one national park to another.”
Since the mammoth site was discovered in 1978, 24 Columbian mammoths have been identified there, including the largest known nursery herd that died from a single natural event.