Miami Circle - Learn More - Planning Group, Minutes August 13, 2001


Monday, August 13, 2001, 1:00-3:00pm
Sheraton Biscayne Bay
Parlor 1 of the Bayview Ballroom
495 Brickell Avenue, Miami, Florida

"Saving the Miami Circle was one of those moments when great opportunities and difficult decisions collide."
               Miami-Dade County Commissioner Katy Sorenson

"It is a great thing for all citizens, including Native American, to come together like this. A lot of times Native Americans are on one side and other people are on the other side. In this particular instance everybody got … together and did a great thing. It seems you are headed in the right direction."
               Billy Cypress, Executive Director, Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum,
               Seminole Tribe of Florida

"The objective is to provide the public with opportunities as soon as possible to get out on the site and learn more about the site and its heritage."
               Michael Spring, Executive Director, Miami-Dade County
               Department of Cultural Affairs

"It is important to think of not just the Miami Circle by itself, but in relation to Brickell Park … and the First Presbyterian Church, which … is in the same archaeological area."
               Becky Roper Matkov, Dade Heritage Trust

"Archaeologists are the messengers of preservation. Without us, there is no preservation. So, for Native people, we are a necessary evil."
               Robert S. Carr, Executive Director, Archaeological and
               Historical Conservancy

"The goal … is for all of us to understand the human experience. I have such a sense of the human experience when I go there. That human beings were walking around the site this many years ago, with many of the same human problems and issues that we have today."
               Arva Moore Parks McCabe, Presidential Appointee, US Advisory
               Council for Historic Preservation

"As a people we need to find a common ground and really understand what the site means, not only for the specialists … but what the site means in general."
               Jorge Hernandez, Chair, Florida Department of State Historic
               Preservation Advisory Council

"There is so much that we have to learn about [the Miami Circle] before we come up with what it is that we would like to see."
               Enid Pinkney, Member, Miami-Dade Historic Preservation Board

"You have to put the sacred in your head, in your body."
               Bobby C. Billie, Spiritual Leader, Independent Traditional
               Seminole Nation of Florida

"There were many people from the very beginning who were out there 24-7 in the days before the county government and politicians went to work. The reason the Miami Circle was saved is because real people on the street who are not archaeologist, or planners, or architects came out and were out there with signs and stopped the Circle from being carted away and sliced up and taken to a museum."
               Blanca Mesa, Dade Heritage Trust


Monday, August 13, 2001, 1-3PM
Sheraton Biscayne Bay, Miami
495 Brickell Avenue
Miami, Florida

I. Planning Group Members in attendance

Jennifer Beber, President, Beber Silverstein & Partners
Greg Bush, President, Urban Environmental League
Robert Carr, Executive Director, Archaeological & Historical Conservancy
Christopher Eck, Director, Miami-Dade County Historic Preservation Division
Jorge Hernandez, Chair, Florida Historic Preservation Advisory Council
Becky Roper Matkov, Executive Director, Dade Heritage Trust
Janet Snyder Matthews, Chair and Director, Florida Division of Historical Resources
Arva Moore Parks McCabe, Presidential Appointee, US Advisory Council for Historic Preservation
James Miller, Vice Chair and State Archaeologist, Research
Enid Pinkney, Member, Miami-Dade Historic Preservation Board
Michael Spring, Executive Director, Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs
Parker Thomson, Chairman, Performing Arts Center Trust 


Alejandro J. Aguirre, Publisher, Diario Las Americas
James E. Billie, Seminole Tribe of Florida
Linda Canzanelli, Superintendent, Biscayne National Park
Billy Cypress, Chairman, Miccosukee Tribe of Florida
Brenda H. Marshall, Senior Project Manager, The Trust for Public Land
Capt. David Miller, Managing Director, Miami River Commission

II. Attendees

Ava Barnes, Miami-Dade Historic Preservation Board
Gary Beiter, Historic Preservation Division, Miami-Dade County
Ellis Berger, Reporter, Sun-Sentinel
Brett Bibeau, Assistant Director, Miami River Commission
Bobby C. Billie, Spiritual Leader, Independent Traditional Seminole Nation of Florida
Elrod Bowers, Seminole Tribe of Florida
J. Andrew Brian, President, Historical Museum of Southern Florida
Rana Brown, Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, Miami-Dade Co.
Sue Camp, Department of Cultural Affairs, Miami-Dade County
Roxanne Cappello, Historical Museum of Southern Florida
Billy L. Cypress, Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, Seminole Tribe of Florida
Marie Denis, Department of Cultural Affairs, Miami-Dade County
Arthur Dunkelman, Jay I. Kislak Foundation
Jim Grimes
Mindy Hagen, Reporter, Miami Today
Katie Pearl Halloran, Miami
Ann Harrison, Palm Bay
Gary Held, Dade Heritage Trust
David Henderson, Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Office (MPO)
Shannon Larson, Daytona Beach
Monika Mayr (for Linda Canzanelli, Biscayne National Park)
Juan Mendieta, Communication Dept., Miami-Dade County
Marty Merzer, Reporter, Miami Herald
Blanca Mesa, Key Biscayne
Jack Moller, Gubernatorial Appointee to the Florida Acquisition and Restoration
Council, Pembroke Pines
Lynn Norman-Teck, Communications Dept., Miami-Dade County
Mary Lou Pfeiffer, Florida International University
Catherine Hummingbird Ramirez, Miami
Daniel A. Ricker, Publisher, Watchdog Report
Bob Romeo, A.T. Franco & Assoc., PA, Ft. Lauderdale
William M. Straight, Miami
Michelle Terriault, Jupiter
Robert Weinreb, consultant, c/o Office of City of Miami Commissioner J. Winton
Ryan J. Wheeler, Research
Patricia Wickman, Director, Department of Anthropology and Genealogy, Seminole Tribe of Florida
Siegfried Wiessner, St. Thomas University School of Law
Johnny L. Winton, Commissioner, City of Miami, District 2
Amy Wolf (for Brenda Marshall, Trust for Public Land)

III. Minutes of Meeting

Item I. Call to Order

The meeting was called to order at 1:00PM by Janet Snyder Matthews. Dr. Matthews outlined the goals of the meeting and invited the Planning Group members to introduce themselves and identify their interests. Meeting goals include a review of what we know, what we will learn, interim and long range management concerns. Attendees were also invited to introduce themselves and their organizations.

Item II. Greeting by Miami-Dade County Commissioner Katy Sorenson, District 8

Commissioner Sorenson outlined the background of public involvement, acknowledging many of the individuals and organizations involved in the Miami Circle. Commissioner Sorenson emphasized that the Miami Circle may be one of the most significant sites on the East Coast of the United States. Commissioner Sorenson outlined financial challenges facing Miami-Dade County as the deadline of November 2001 approaches for repayment of the Trust for Public Land bridge loan. While $2 are repaid, $6.7 million is the balance due. Commissioner Sorenson indicated that raising money for a property not owned by the county is very difficult. Commissioner Sorenson expressed support for efforts by the County and the Historical Museum of Southern Florida to make the property accessible to the public. She challenged the Planning Group to develop a creative, thoughtful, respectful, and effective way to interpret the Miami Circle.

Item III. Archaeological Background

John Ricisak, former Miami-Dade County archaeologist, was unable to attend to present the initial discovery and excavation of the Miami Circle by the County Historic Preservation Division and the Archaeological and Historical Conservancy. Ryan Wheeler, Archaeology Supervisor for Research, Florida Department of State, provided background and discussed the State investigation of the site just prior to acquisition late in 1999.

Wheeler emphasized that the discovery of the Circle, while unanticipated, was the result of a strong County historic preservation ordinance that required archaeological investigation and provided county involvement, if necessary. Wheeler outlined excavations of the Circle and some of the major findings, including radiocarbon dates placing occupation at 2000 years ago and artifacts indicating that the Tequesta and their ancestors participated in long distance exchange networks. Wheeler noted that the investigation focused on the rest of the 2.2 acre property in an attempt to better identify the context of the Circle. Maps depicting the site's vertical and horizontal extent were shown. Results of much of the work have been reported in the December 2000 issue of The Florida Anthropologist, which Planning Group members received within meeting packets.

Debby Kearney, General Counsel for the Florida Department of State, was not present to discuss the status of the lease and sublease. Dr. Matthews indicated that this would be a topic for future meeting agenda.

Bob Carr, Executive Director of the Archaeological and Historical Conservancy, discussed progress on the analysis of the materials from the three different studies of the Miami Circle, funded by a Florida Department of State Historic Preservation Special Category grant awarded to the Historical Museum of Southern Florida. Over 200,000 cataloged objects include some producing radiocarbon dates demonstrating occupation as early as 400 to 700 BC. Other dates indicate occupation during the period of European contact. Carr called for stringent guidelines to regulate future site studies. He emphasized the spiritual and scientific aspects of the property, which call for a balance in future considerations. He underlined the definitive role of the archaeological discovery that led to the preservation of the Circle and the Brickell Point property. He agreed that the Native American viewpoint requires consideration in developing interpretation.

Item IV. Current Issues

Ryan Wheeler distributed a draft interim management plan, and discussed the history to date of maintenance and protection of the site. Issues included security, stabilization of the property, coverings and protection of the Circle feature, stabilization of the sea wall bulkhead and possible assistance from the Miami-Dade County Dept. of Environmental Regulation and Management, mowing and fence maintenance, and the need for public interpretation.

Proposed plans for temporary interpretation:

Andy Brian, President, Historical Museum of Southern Florida, discussed his organization's role in developing interpretive materials and providing tours. He indicated that the museum would use funds from the Department of State Division of Historical Resources Historic Preservation Special Category grant to pay for interpretive signage at the Brickell Point site. He further stated that the museum could coordinate scheduled tours of the site.

Michael Spring, Executive Director, Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, discussed the County's plans for moving forward with temporary interpretive signage and public access to the Circle. This would include a plan for a temporary covering of the Circle, a landscape plan, signage, and scheduled tours. Any plans would take into account the protection of the archaeological resources. Relationship with the Miami River Greenway should be considered. The design concept and cost estimate will be developed prior to the next meeting.

Chris Eck, Director of the Miami-Dade County Historic Preservation Division, presented informal draft drawings representing potential temporary interpretive materials that could be developed. Mr. Eck also presented examples of other cultural sites (e.g., Casa Grande National Monument, Jamestown Settlement) with protective covering designs, and discussed some of the ways this might be addressed at the Circle.

The City of Miami representative was not present to discuss the Miami River Master Plan, but Brett Bibeau, Assistant Director of the Miami River Commission, discussed the plans for the Miami River walk being developed by the Miami River Commission and the Trust for Public Land. Mr. Bibeau indicated that the Miami River Commission had been created by the State Legislature in 1998, charged with improving the river. This includes plans for a Miami River Greenway and riverwalk. He indicated some elements of the riverwalk that already exist, including an area behind the Sheraton Biscayne Bay hotel with a water taxi stop. The plans had been approved and substantial funding (4.5 million) secured for the first phase. He also indicated that the plans included a passage under the south side of the Brickell Bridge, which would potentially tie Brickell Point and other properties on the south side of the river to the riverwalk elements upriver and on the north side of the river. He indicated that the plan had taken into account the Miami Circle/Brickell Point property, in the hopes of incorporating it into the river walk. Information on the plan is available on line at:

Item V. Closing remarks

Dr. Matthews thanked the Planning Group and attendees and indicated that the next meeting would be held in two months.

Dr. Matthews invited input from the Planning Group members:

Jennifer Beber asked about bilingual interpretive materials. Michael Spring responded that English, Spanish, and Creole were often used jointly on materials.

Greg Bush and Becky Matkov asked about the scope of the Planning Group, and if Brickell Park and other nearby properties, such as First Presbyterian Church, could be considered in the broader plans for the Miami Circle and Brickell Point.

Monika Mayer from Biscayne National Park expressed the need for defining how the public anticipated experiencing the property, and stressed that the property be considered in context of other sites and cultural resources.

Patricia Wickman indicated the need for Native American involvement and the desire of the Seminole Tribe to help with interpretation. She explained that archaeology was a tool, and that the human experience needed to be taken into consideration in developing interpretation of the site as a "Native American site," rather than as an "archaeological site." She stressed the need for an inclusive view of the past.

Jim Miller noted that it might be helpful to consider the different issues in terms of a matrix, with short, middle and long term categories plotted on one axis, and 2.2 acre Brickell Point poperty, Miami River, and region plotted on the other. This would help Planning Group members as they think about and discuss the different numerous aspects of the project.

Jorge Hernandez raised questions regarding the duration of the Planning Group. He also talked about the Miami Circle feature in terms of its architectural quality, and the fact that it was unusual in that it was a "negative" type feature, sinking into the ground instead of projecting from the ground, as with many other Sacred sites, like the Mesoamerican pyramids (e.g., Chichen Itza). He noted that this would be a challenge in properly interpreting the site and making it available to the public. Mr. Hernandez also stated that for such a significant site, the Planning Group needed to find a way to make that significance available and understandable to all the people who come as visitors or who access information in other ways.

Arva Parks emphasized the need to incorporate the human experience of the site into any interpretation, noting that the real connection between visitors and the ancient inhabitants who had lived at and built the Miami Circle was a physical one associated with being at the same geographical place. She emphasized the need to take other sites and previous research into consideration, including the Granada site on the north bank of the river, for a "big picture" approach.

Enid Pinkney noted the need to acknowledge those individuals and organizations that had been involved in the acquisition of the Miami Circle/Brickell Point property. She also spoke about the spirit of the Circle, and the importance of getting to know the Native peoples involved and their perspectives.

Dr. Matthews then invited input from attendees who had expressed an interest in speaking:

Jack Moller offered advice on possible funding sources and echoed the need to involve other agencies and sites. He indicated that the "bed tax" might be used as a funding source.

Catherine Hummingbird Ramirez indicated her long involvement with the Circle, noting that she held a ritual there every Tuesday at 6:00PM. She urged the Planning Group to make the right decisions for the Circle, to open the property to the public. She emphasized the relationship between spirit and science. She offered several prayers.

Bobby C. Billie expressed his concern over the lack of understanding by the Planning Group of what the Circle is and the lack of Native American representation on the Planning Group [Ed. Note: James E. Billie of the Seminole Tribe of Florida and Billy Cypress of the Missosukee Tribe of Indians were original appointees to the Planning Group]. Mr. Billie emphasized the relationship of the Miami Circle and Brickell Point with Brickell Park where human burials have been discovered. He spoke about the spiritual aspect of the site and related sites, and asked for respect for Native people.

Shannon Larson expressed concern over the lack of Native American representation on the Planning Group and objected to the archaeological research that had been conducted. She indicated that the artifacts should be reburied.

Blanca Mesa was concerned about opportunities for public input and for including those who had first worked to draw public attention to the site.

Billy Cypress indicated the Seminole Tribe's interest in the Miami Circle and offered assistance as needed. He indicated that it was good for Native Americans to pull together in the preservation of the Circle, and they were standing by to help.

Meeting adjourned at 3:07PM.

Item VI. Tour

The Planning Group members and public attendees visited the site in a tour led by Ryan Wheeler.

Notes on major topics for future meetings:
Duration of Planning Group. Some members expressed an interest in understanding the time frame of the Planning Group. This would seem to largely depend on the length of time needed to develop a plan for the property, secure adequate funding, and carry out the design.

Funding for temporary and long term interpretation of the site. Despite the suggestion of some group members, it seemed that most people in attendance believed the temporary and final interpretation of the site would involve public access to the Miami Circle feature.

Incorporation of the property into the Miami River Walk being developed by the Miami River Commission and the Trust for Public Land.

Details of temporary interpretation. Michael Spring's office, Chris Eck, and the Historical Museum of Southern Florida are working together on plans, which they hope to distribute prior to the next meeting. This would involve signage and a covering for the Circle, as well as guided tours of the site.

Lease and sublease:

Incorporation of other properties into the plan for the Miami Circle. This seems to largely center on the Brickell Park property, but perhaps extending to the First Presbyterian Church.