Circle of leaders named to determine future of Circle
By Marilyn Bowden
Newly appointed members of the Miami Circle Planning Group say they'd like to see preservation and educational support high on the agenda once meetings begin to determine the future of the historic site.
Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris appointed 15 community, ethnic and government leaders to the group, which she said will advise state and county officials on "choices for interpreting the site and making it accessible to the public."
State Archaeologist Jim Miller, group co-chair with Janet Snyder Matthews, director of the Florida Division of Historical Resources, said no meeting has been scheduled yet but it would probably be held in South Florida, where most of the members reside.
"The purpose of the first meeting," he said, "would be to define the scope of the group."
He said the group was conceived as a way of bringing community leaders into the decision process to determine how the Miami Circle property should be used.
"It's one of the key pieces of real estate in Florida," Dr. Miller said. "What happens there in relation to the Circle and in general will be very closely watched.
"It's important to have discussions among a public group, as open and inclusive as possible."
The Miami Circle site, a 2.2-acre parcel at the confluence of the Miami River and Biscayne Bay, was discovered during excavations for a luxury condominium development in 1998. Archaeologists say the site contains artifacts from a principal town of the Tequesta Indians, some of them dating back 2,000 years.
After a protracted, highly publicized campaign to halt development, the land was purchased through Florida's Preservation 2000 land acquisition program for $26.7 million, financed by the state and county with assistance from the Trust for Public Land, the John S. & James L. Knight Foundation, the Metropolitan Planning Organization and citizens.
Christopher Eck, director of the historic preservation division of the Miami-Dade office of Community & Economic Development, said he's looking forward to the planning group's first meetings.
"We have a wonderful assortment of professionals and community leaders," he said, "who will bring a depth of experience and their knowledge of the community into developing a site that the public will truly enjoy.
"The Miami Circle is going to be one of the landmark destinations of the future as a result of efforts that this group will bring forth."
Historian Arva Moore Parks, a member of national Advisory Council for Historic Preservation and one of the 15 members in the planning group, said she's concerned with helping the public understand the significance of the site.
"My major focus in everything I do is wanting to interpret and have people learn from history," she said. "The best thing is to figure out how to share the information publicly and get support."
Enid Pinkney, a community leader who was president of Dade Heritage Trust when it began the drive to save the site, said she'd like to see it preserved as a natural habitat.
"I don't think we should impose our heritage or our desires on the site," she said. "It should be in keeping with its origins.
"I'll listen to what everybody has to say. But I don't go along with any grand ideas. We've done these people in for so long! Let's not do it again."
Also on the planning group are James Billie, chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida; Billie Cypress, chairman of the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida; David Miller, managing director of the Miami River Commission; Alejandro Aguirre, publisher of Diario las Americas, and Robert Carr, executive director of the Archaeological & Historical Conservancy.
Also, Brenda Marshall, senior project manager in the Miami office for the Trust for Public Land; Becky Roper Matkov, executive director of Dade Heritage Trust; Linda Canzanelli, superintendent of Biscayne National Park; Jorge Hernandez, architect and member of the Florida Historic Preservation Advisory Council; community leader Jennifer Beber; Parker Thomson, chairman of the Performing Arts Center Trust, and Michael Spring, executive director of Miami-Dade County department of cultural affairs.