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Front Page » Opinion » Display Miami Circle properly, fund long-term operations

Display Miami Circle properly, fund long-term operations

Written by on July 19, 2016
Display Miami Circle properly, fund long-term operations

If Miami history gets too little notice dating from the city’s founding in 1896, it’s nearly invisible for the thousands of years when this was a Native American community.

The state was to display one focal point of that legacy when it bought 2.2 acres at the mouth of the Miami River in Brickell in 1999 to spotlight our best-known site in Native American history, the Miami Circle. But few living people have ever seen it.

The history at the Miami Circle has been one of neglect since Miami Today’s Marilyn Bowden in a 1998 article revealed it existed under a condo development site. County archaeologist Bob Carr told her as he uncovered artifacts at the circle that “the agreement is that when they’re ready to begin construction we’ll leave.”

That day never came. The building site was nearly impossible to reach, the next year other media latched onto the circle’s existence, the public got excited and the would-be developer then sold his $8 million land purchase for $26.7 million as Florida sought to preserve a 2,000-year-old, 38-foot-diameter stone circle of Tequesta origin.

After the state purchase the site was controlled consecutively by the National Park Service, the Historical Museum of Southern Florida and now the Florida Department of State. The circle was never properly displayed. In 2003 it was reburied to protect it from weather. It’s now in effect a dog park and parking for scooters. Only recently has it gotten proper lawn care.

Without a visible circle or proper markers and storytelling, the site has been nearly useless as a historical touchstone for the beginnings of Miami and its peoples. But even if it were illuminating you couldn’t park a car to see it – the site has just a semi-circular drive for buses.

Neglect has not been intentional. Well-meaning agencies and individuals have all tried to do something proper, with all sorts of good ideas for displays, covered walkways, replicas of the buried circle and historic storytelling.

What has been lacking has not been good intentions and ideas but the money to do the job well. As is often true of public projects here, what has been available is cash to buy and to build, but seldom the funds to operate and to endow.

A parallel scenario is playing out at our now-rising science museum, where all the operating and probably the endowment money has been spent instead to build and open a gem while leaving its long-term viability in limbo. The City of Miami did the same years ago with the once-spectacular Mildred and Claude Pepper Fountain in Bayfront Park – ever even hear of it?

The Miami Circle is not just some casual state land in the heart of booming Brickell. It has been formally declared a National Historic Landmark.

So when the state tells us, as we reported last week, that it recognizes the circle’s historic significance and is committed to improve, maintain and preserve it, we’re pleased.

But we’d be happier if a concrete plan and the money were in place to back it up and to operate, publicize and endow the site properly as well.

The next phase of the state’s plan, says Kerri L. Post, deputy secretary of state, is to add pet waste stations and trash and recycling bins, plant trees, add a railing with benches and put up some interpretive signs.

That’s inexpensive, so we’ll get a really nice and clean dog park with signage. Then, she says, they’re looking at public art and a 3-D replica of the circle that’s still just a concept.

The replica and what should come with it are the minimum that the site absolutely requires – sort of what was planned a decade or so ago still being planned today. We’ll all like that.

But what the Miami Circle needs is not just the site as it should be but the money to make it attract visitors not only from out of town but Miamians, as well as the funds to care for and upgrade the site in perpetuity, regardless of future Florida budget cuts that are as inevitable as the summer rains in Miami.

Without both visionary plans and the money to achieve them regardless of the budgetary weather in Tallahassee, this newspaper will be writing again in a decade about the neglect of the Miami Circle, with dogs and scooters sitting on a historic but hidden gem.

Don’t give us the Brickell equivalent of a non-functional Pepper Fountain.

Miami and Florida do precious little to recognize the indigenous people who were our predecessors. Can’t we do one thing right, and do it in the next legislative session?

2 Responses to Display Miami Circle properly, fund long-term operations

  1. DC Copeland

    July 20, 2016 at 3:07 pm

    Fourteen-years-ago an idea was floated that would have paid for the preservation of the circle through private money by making it part of the lobby of a multi-use tower. Miami Circle visitors could have looked at it in air-conditioned comfort. But No-o-o-o-o! That made too much sense.

  2. Mike Freud

    July 24, 2016 at 10:17 pm

    Glad to see that someone is finally writing about it! However, you are too nice in your description of what Miami Circle is! I live at The icon since 2011. This park is a sh*t hole, literally!.It is full of dogs’ poops and pee every other steps! I tried at first to go there to play soccer with my kids but it became impossible, unless you like to slalom between dog poop, or have you or kids fall or step on fresh crap…And even walking nearby is painful due to constant smell of pee and crap floating in the air…

    I actually do not understand where are all these Indian descents who fought to get there park ?! I would be pissed off if I were one of them to see what should be a holly place disrespected as such minute after minute, days after days…

    Last but not least, this park is the set for on going violations of dog owners who keep their dogs unlished and look at you like you are crazy when their big dog jump on your 2 year old playing with his ball! I’m not kidding, once I asked this girl “what don’t you understand about this sign asking to keep your dog with a leash?” She answered “I feel the same around kids”… One day there will be a dead kid or at least an injured one because of these irresponsible dog owners….

    As a matter of fact, who should we reach out with complains, vidéos and pictures of this park being profaned?