Saving the mounds

Wednesday, July 7, 2004

Since its discovery in the 1930s, Wickliffe Mounds has been a tourist attraction in western Kentucky. But budget cuts at Murray State University, which has managed the site for years, could put the center in jeopardy.

The site of ceremonial mounds that includes living areas and a cemetery was operated privately for a time and was donated to a hospital in the 1940s. Murray State University has operated it since 1983.

But budget cuts could mean that the state will begin taking charge of the site.

A tentative agreement between Murray State University and Kentucky's state park service could keep Wickliffe Mounds open to visitors.

The agreement hadn't been finalized in the days prior to June 30, when the center was slated to close. The center's fate has been in limbo since January.

After hearing that the research center at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers in western Kentucky might have to close, schoolchildren, American Indians and archeologists worked to keep it open.

The deal that could save the center allows the state's Commerce Cabinet, which oversees tourism, to begin managing the site.

Wickliffe Mounds is on the National Register of Historic Places and is listed as Kentucky's first archeological landmark. More than 150,000 people have visited it in the past 20 years.

Letting the state run it likely will be a blessing in disguise both for the university, which will save money on salaries and operating fees, and also for the site, which will benefit from additional tourism promotion the state can offer.

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