What's your Miami Circle preference? Park Service wants to know
By Risa Polansky
The National Park Service is asking the public to weigh in on how the long-inaccessible Miami Circle site should be maintained, though it last year forfeited control of the Brickell-area relic.
The service has released the study that early last year rejected the Circle as a part of Biscayne National Park — as it's not been deemed nationally significant by the park service's advisory board — in the form of a glossy booklet featuring photos, historical background and exhibition options for the relic.
It includes also a survey designed to gauge readers' thoughts on the proposals.
Construction of Related Group's Icon Brickell, along with a protective limestone covering that, though it protects the artifact, hides it from view, has made the Circle largely inaccessible in recent years.
The Historical Museum of Southern Florida, tapped to manage the Circle after the park service gave up control, is to announce plans for the site soon, said Bob McCammon, president and chief executive officer of the museum.
He declined to share details but said last June that the museum might create a "passive park kind of environment" with posted educational information about the Circle's history.
The site could also become part of a tour for students who visit the museum to study Florida history, Mr. McCammon said, although access could be limited as development continues in the area.
The museum, in the Cultural Center Plaza in downtown Miami, already features an exhibit of Circle artifacts uncovered in 1999, when excavations began on the 2,000-year-old site, probably a remnant of the Tequesta people
The museum's "passive park" plan jibes with one of the park service's published suggestions: to maintain the site as "urban green space" for "passive recreational and educational opportunities."
Under this scenario, the Circle would remain covered for its protection but be marked to indicate its location.
It calls for no facilities or staff aside from occasional guided tours.
A second option the park service suggests would turn the site into an "urban activity center" allowing for unrestricted access to the site — though the Circle would remain covered — and providing for "regular, scheduled interpretive presentations and guided tours."
Alternatively, the study says, the site could serve as "the gateway to Biscayne Bay regional educational efforts," a plan that would require a visitor center be built.
This scenario calls also for "interpretive" boat tours.
The service's last option is the only that suggests the Circle itself be viewable rather than covered and marked.
An "archaeological interpretive center/museum" would instead be constructed around the landmark to serve as both site protection and a viewing opportunity.
State Archaeologist Ryan Wheeler worries such options could be impossible.
"Nobody really has the money," he said, to construct a visitors' center or museum.
"To properly exhibit it, I'm not sure what it would take."
The public can send comments and suggestions to the National Park Service at Miami'Circle@nps.gov.
Responses are due Feb. 22.