| 1 June 2009
Miami Circle site may soon open as park
The Miami Circle, a 2,000-year-old Native American site that Florida taxpayers shelled out $27 million to buy 10 years ago, may finally open to the public under a frugal state plan that would create a low-key park around the ancient landmark. The $750,000 plan calls for a paved promenade around the 2.2-acre site at the mouth of the Miami River, a drop-off circle for school buses and cars, modest landscaping and lighting and a few interpretive signs.
The circle itself - a carving in the limestone that archaeologists believe supported a structure with ceremonial uses - will remain invisible for now because the state has neither a plan nor the money to display it yet. Instead, stones would mark the circumference of the circle, which is protected under several layers of fill. There is a hitch, however. The state and the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, which manages the site under contract, are at least $250,000 short of the amount needed for park construction.
Circle supporters say they are confident the shortfall can be made up by pooling contributions from local and state agencies eager to see the project completed. The goal, said Spencer Crowley, a Miami attorney spearheading efforts to complete funding and get permits for the project: an August groundbreaking with completion by the end of the year.
"I think we're on the right road now," said Eric Buermann, chairman of the water management district and the Miami River Commission, who has been lobbying the state to open the circle to the public quickly. "We're fighting to get some basic stuff done. It's been a long time in coming and it's really past due, but this plan will clean up the site and allow people to go down there and appreciate what is there. It's a big first step."
The plan for a basic park represents a change of course by state and museum officials, who as recently as January were determined to embark on a lengthy master-planning process that would have put off opening the circle until 2012. The circle park plan has been submitted for approvals to the city planning department and the county's shoreline development review board, which will consider it at a hearing.
Sources: Yahoo! News (26 May 2009), Miami Herald (27 May 2009)
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