Since 1962 the New Echota-Cherokee Capital State Historic Site in Calhoun officially opened to visitors. Each year about 15,000 people travel across Georgia to visit the site where the Cherokee Indian National Legislature was established in 1825.
“We have above average visitor numbers compared to parks of our size and for our area,” said, Dave Gomez site manager for the New Echota Site.
However, despite growing interest in the site, in recent years the park has seen a de-crease in funding due to budgetary issues.
“The [Department of Natural Resources] was hit very hard,” Gomez said.
In June the site lost two staff members due to budgetary cuts. State wide, Georgia’s parks had a 39 percent reduction in funding.
“Each year we are being required to generate our own funds,” Gomez said.
One of the reasons Echota has seen such a drastic reduction in funding is because of shrinking tax revenue.
“With the economy, people are not shopping and spending money like they once were. This means we are getting fewer tax dollars,” Gomez said.
“We are looking for a way to continue to offer educational opportunities,” he said.
One way is through the a volunteer organization to be called the “Friends of New Echota State Historic Site.”
The first meeting will be held at New Echota Saturday, Aug. 15. During this meeting offi-cers will be elected and the group will make plans for volunteering events.
“We have always worked with the historical society and the Calhoun Women’s Club, so volunteers are not new to Echota,” Gomez said.
Gomez said that volunteers will assist in everything from tours, to managing the library to office work.
“We have a wide range of volunteer opportunities,” Gomez said.
The meeting will be held at the site and will begin at 10 a.m.
Gomez is strongly encouraging anyone interested in becoming involved in volunteer ef-forts at New Echota to attend the meeting.
According to Gomez, volunteer groups across the state of Georgia have enabled many or-ganizations to continue and even increase efforts to serve the public while reducing operat-ing costs of State Parks and Historic Site facilities.
The Friends of New Echota will also help train volunteers to provide guided tours of the site.
“That is something we have had to cut back on due to staffing,” Gomez said. “Now when people come to visit, especially field trips, they are all self-guided.”
Gomez explained that this is a problem due to the fragile nature of the restored buildings and artifacts.
“We can’t let people enter some of the buildings like they could before. We need a ranger or guide there with them,” Gomez said.
For more information on the Friends of Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites Division of the Department of Natural Resources, visit www.gastateparks.org or cal New Echota State Historic Site at 706-624-1321. . s