New Miami Circle hut seen as boon to long-range task force
By Marilyn Bowden
Plans to construct a temporary thatched-roof structure protecting the Miami Circle will take some pressure off members of a state task force charged with the historic site's maintenance.
It will allow public access while task force members continue to make long-term plans for the site, officials said.
Brenda Swan, archaeology supervisor with the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research and spokesperson for the Miami Circle Planning Group, said it's difficult to estimate how long it will be before the public would be able to view the site, but it could be about a year.
After examining a model prepared by the pro-bono team of A.T. Franco & Associates, architects; ACE Bamboo & Thatch, builders, and EDSA, planning and landscape designers, the group last week approved a 60-foot-high structure held up by 32 wooden poles that resembles a Seminole chickee.
The roof, 68 feet in diameter, would shelter the 38-foot-wide circular area and a public walkway surrounding it. Cost is estimated at $386,000.
State government has identified a source of funding, said Michael Spring, executive director of the Miami-Dade Department of Cultural Affairs.
"They need to go through an internal budget process," he said. "If successful - and we are hoping for success - it will become available July 1 when the state's new budget year begins.
"In the interest of moving forward as quickly as we can, we have been talking to them about looking at how the money would be used."
Ms. Swan said the state would need to determine how an engineer, architect and builder would be selected but didn't know how long that might take.
From the moment a team is selected, Mr. Spring said, "our estimate is that the work will take four to five months to compete - at least two for permitting and two to complete work on-site."
Once the structure was secured, the Historical Museum of Southern Florida would handle site tours.
Mr. Spring said the chickee-like shelter is an interim plan, meant to secure the site and satisfy public desire to gain access to it for three to seven years while the planning group contemplates its ultimate fate.
Several factors could come into play, he said.
"The planning group has already endorsed making the site part of the Miami River Greenways Trail," Mr. Spring said. "Also, the US Congress has authorized an 18-month study to make it part of the National Park Service.
"These are exciting things. But it seemed a shame to wait so long to let people get out there and see it. Now we are looking at the best of both worlds. We'll get the public out there as soon as possible but aren't doing anything that can't be reversed."
The unearthing of the Miami Circle, estimated by some archaeologists to be about 2,000 years old, halted construction of a high-rise community at Brickell Point in 1998. Its original purpose is unknown. Archaeologist Bob Carr, one of the landmark's discoverers, has said the remains of marine animal sacrifices within its confines suggest a religious function.
Ms. Swan said the planning group's next meeting has not yet been set. "It will probably be after we get an actual building plan tied down."