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24 April 2010
Unauthorized construction may have damaged Effigy mounds

Unauthorized construction projects may have damaged the ancient cultural features that Effigy Mounds National Monument (Iowa, USA) was established to protect. A team of archaeologists is working to determine what, if any, damage to the mounds may have been inflicted by the unauthorized construction of a maintenance shed in the north unit and an elevated boardwalk trail on the Nazekaw Terrace directly across Highway 76 from the visitor center.
     In an effort to improve access to mounds for people of limited mobility, Effigy Mounds staff began construction of the Nazekaw Terrace boardwalk in the fall of 2008. Work was abruptly halted a year ago when Park Service regional staff, conducting a periodic compliance review, found that two required documents had not been completed before the project was undertaken. The review uncovered other irregularities dating to 1999, said Steve Adams, the Park Service's Midwest regional associate director of cultural resources.
     The maintenance shed has already been dismantled, and the fate of the Nazekaw Terrace boardwalk will be determined by an advisory council, which includes tribal representatives, after the archaeological study is complete, Adams said. Options include removing the trail's aboveground portions; removing the entire trail, including the many underground concrete piers; leaving it as is; and completing it.
     A team under the direction of National Park Service archaeologist Steven DeVore has spent most of April conducting aboveground testing of the soil's magnetic and electrical resistance. The readings, DeVore, said will pinpoint areas in which the soil has been disturbed, indicative of ancient mound construction. State Archaeologist John Doershuk said, "It is possible that significant cultural resources were adversely impacted."
     Effigy Mounds Superintendent Phyllis Ewing said she takes full responsibility for the failure to follow the legally prescribed procedures. The Park Service's dual mission, she said, is to preserve natural and cultural resources and to make them available for the education and enjoyment of the public. In this case, park staff failed to maintain the proper balance, she said.

Source: KCRG (23 April 2010)

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