2,000-year-old Miami Circle to be buried until status is determined
By Marilyn Bowden
Five years after discovery of the Miami Circle, overseers have decided to rebury the 2,000-year-old archeological landmark, pushing plans for public access still further into the future.
"It was decided to cover up the Circle with dirt or other gravel fill to protect it from the elements," said Brenda Swann, archaeology supervisor for the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research.
The move, she said, will be made to keep the Brickell Avenue landmark pristine pending a Department of the Interior study to see whether it can be included in the National Parks System as part of Biscayne National Park. The Miami Circle Planning Group decided Friday, at its first meeting in more than a year, to re-cover the site.
"The parks service approach is to look for minimal damage," Ms. Swann said. "We felt the best thing to do is to protect it until its status becomes more clear."
The delay won't necessarily interfere with the planning group's efforts to get public access to the site, she said.
"There could perhaps be some limited access via mulch trails," she said.
A year ago the group proposed a temporary thatched-roof shelter resembling a Seminole chickee over the 38-foot-wide circle and a walkway winding through the site.
At that time, Michael Spring, executive director of the Miami-Dade Department of Cultural Affairs and a member of the planning group, had said a chickee-like shelter would secure the site and satisfy public desire to see it while the planning group contemplated its fate.
"That's not off the table completely," Ms. Swann said. "We're taking a four-month period to look at different options for more permanent access, including tours."
But even if the planning group decides on limited access at its next meeting, tentatively due in late October or early November, changes in state government would probably delay any action.
The governor has proposed merging the Department of State, of which the Division of Historical Resources is a part, with the Department of Community Affairs. The Miami Circle project is funded through the historical division's internal budget.
Meanwhile, a federal study regarding the Circle's inclusion in the National Parks System is estimated at 18 months but could run longer. A bipartisan proposal for the report, passed unanimously by the Senate in February, has been on the House agenda since March, Ms. Swann said, "but there has been no movement so far. Sponsors of the bill have requested in writing that it be moved through the committee and go directly to the floor, but that hasn't been introduced."
The Miami Circle was discovered in September 1998 during a routine pre-construction dig at a condominium site at the mouth of the Miami River. After an intensive media campaign, Miami-Dade County claimed the 2.2 acres by eminent domain. The site was subsequently purchased for $26.7 million with funds from the state's Conservation & Recreation Lands program, the county's Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond, private contributions and a loan from the Trust for Public Land.