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29 September 2007
Florida State may buy ancient burial ground

At one point this year, Manatee County officials (Florida, USA) were considering a purchase of Pillsbury Temple Mound to ensure the site's preservation. Now they're trying to save the site, by just agreeing to trim the lawn at the ancient burial ground.
     Conservation Lands Management Department Director Charlie Hunsicker in recent months has worked to protect the 1-acre site northwest of Bradenton from development. Hunsicker's department had designs on purchasing and preserving the mound, but after property tax reform slashed the land conservation budget from $5 million to $2 million, there was no money, he said. The new prospective buyer is the state's Acquisition and Restoration Council, part of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The council in August wanted to see a more in-depth review of the site before deciding to purchase it. The seller remains the South Florida Museum, whose board in February decided the mound did not fit the museum's educational mission.
     Ryan Wheeler, an archeologist with the Department of State, said the state remains interested in buying the site under the Florida Forever grant, one of its largest conservation and recreational lands acquisition programs. "I'd say that based on the information we have, the site certainly meets the criteria for purchase," Wheeler said. "It's a significant site and should be preserved, but my understanding is that there is some issue with access."
     Plenty of research, planning and agreements remain before the mound is bought and falls into the public domain. Manatee officials have agreed to maintain the site if the state purchases it. But museum board members would have to give up a 50-foot strip of road extending north from 21st Avenue Northwest to ensure public access to the site - a requirement for most publicly owned lands.
     State officials are expected to visit the mound during the first week of October for more research and to determine whether the site is at risk from development. Wheeler said it could come before the Acquisition and Restoration Council for consideration in December.

Source: Bradenton Herald (25 September 2007)

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