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Park site struggles to preserve King's legacy.

The Atlanta neighborhood central to the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is now contending with deterioration and visitor numbers soaring far beyond its ability to accommodate them.

The National Park Service, NPCA, and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) are working to gain help for Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site.

Congress established the park in 1980 to preserve the house and street where King was born; Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he, his father, and his grandfather preached; and, King's tomb, which adjoins the private Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change. But since then it has provided little of the funding necessary to carry out these goals.

In 1990, the lack of funds had disastrous consequences for a building two doors down from King's birth home. "We had been making it known for several years that the building was in poor condition. It eventually collapsed," said Rick McCollough of the park's planning staff. "The roof fell in, and it was so far gone, the whole structure had to be demolished." After the incident, Congress increased the park's 1992 budget, allowing it to restore more than half the houses on the block. Some of the rest are still badly deteriorated.

Rapid growth in visitation to the park has proved another problem. From 350,000 in 1984, the number of visitors increased to 3.2 million in 1992. An estimated 80 to 90 tour buses and 1,500 carloads of people arrive on peak summer days. A parking lot some distance from the site has room for 35 cars. The rest roam the neighborhood's streets in search of parking spaces.

The park itself contains no public rest rooms. The more than 8,000 visitors on an average day must line up to use two stalls in the King Center and two in a nearby city community center.

The park lacks exhibits on King's life and curatorial space where his papers and personal items can be preserved. Its administrative offices have been split among four different buildings on the birth home block since 1983.

The approach of the 1996 Olympics, which will be held in Atlanta, gives the park's problems an extra degree of urgency. Major Olympic venues are being built nearby, and during the games the number of visitors is projected to skyrocket to 150,000 per day.

NPCA, the Park Service, Lewis, and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus are working to secure funds for the site. "It is imperative that we make the necessary improvements to the site before the Olympics, when Atlanta and the United States will be under international scrutiny," said Lewis, a veteran of the civil rights movement.

The city of Atlanta has agreed to turn over to the Park Service the adjoining community center. If the funds to do so are available, the park will renovate the facility to include public rest rooms, a visitor area with exhibits on King's life, and the needed office and curatorial space. It also will turn a vacant lot near the site into parking space and finish rehabilitating the historic buildings.

While the appropriations bill passed by the Senate included $11.8 million for these improvements, the House bill did not. A final decision will be made in mid- to late September congressional negotiations.


Bill Purpose Status

Old Faithful Prohibits geothermal H.R. 1137 is before
Protection Act drilling and pumping the House
H.R. 1137 around Yellowstone and subcommittee
 mandates research on on energy and mineral
 the risk geothermal resources.
 and other energy
 development poses to
 the park geysers.
 NPCA supports.

Glacier Bay Permit commercial and The House Merchant
H.R. 704 subsistence fishing Marine Committee
 at Glacier Bay reported out H.R. 704
 National Park and in August. It is
 Preserve in Alaska. still before the
 NPCA opposes. House subcommittee on
 national parks.

Shendoah Establish a national H.R. 746 is before
battlefields battlefield park in the House
H.R. 746 Virginia's Shenandoah subcommittee on
S.208 Valley to preserve national parks. S.
 Civil War sites and 1033 is before the
 set up a heritage Senate Energy and
 commission of local Natural Resources
 landowners, business Committee.
 people, officials,
 historians, and
 NPCA supports.

Concessions Increase concessions H.R. 1493 is before
H.R. 1493 fees and return them the House
S. 208 to the park system; subcommittee on
 establish competitive national parks. The
 bidding for Senate Energy and
 concessions contracts; Natural Resources
 reform possessory Committee held a
 interest. NPCA June 24 hearing on
 supports. S. 208.

California Create Mojave National S. 21 is before the
desert Park, expand Death Senate Energy and
S. 21 Valley and Joshua Natural Resources
 Tree national Committee.
 monuments and
 redesignate them as
 national parks, and
 designate 4.4 million
 acres of Bureau of
 Land Management
 wilderness. NPCA

California Create Mojave National June hearings were
desert Monument, expand Death held on H.R. 518.
H.R. 518 Valley and Joshua Tree The bill is before
 national monuments and the House
 redesignate them as subcommittee on
 national parks, and national parks.
 designate 4.1 million
 acres of BLM
 wilderness NPCA
COPYRIGHT 1993 National Parks Conservation Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site in Atlanta, Georgia
Publication:National Parks
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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