Miami Circle - Learn More - Planning Group, Minutes November 30, 2001

Friday, November 30, 2001, 3:30-5:00PM
Historical Museum of Southern Florida
101 West Flagler Street
Miami, Florida

  1. Planning Group Members in attendance

    Jennifer Beber, President, Beber Silverstein & Partners
    Linda Canzanelli, Superintendent, Biscayne National Park
    Robert Carr, Executive Director, Archaeological & Historical Conservancy
    Christopher Eck, Executive Director, Miami-Dade County Office of Historic
    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
    Arva Moore Parks McCabe, Presidential Appointee, US Advisory Council for
    Historic Preservation
    Enid Pinkney, Member, Miami-Dade Historic Preservation Board
    Michael Spring, Executive Director, Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural


    Alejandro J. Aguirre, Publisher, Diario Las Americas
    James E. Billie, Seminole Tribe of Florida
    Greg Bush, President, Urban Environmental League
    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
    James Miller, Vice Chair and State Archaeologist, Bureau of Archaeological
    Parker Thomson, Chairman, Performing Arts Center Trust

  2. Attendees

    Ava Barnes, Miami-Dade Historic Preservation Board
    Gary Beiter, Office of Historic Preservation, Miami-Dade County
    J.G. Berger, Alednam Development, Miami
    Brett Bibeau, Assistant Director, Miami River Commission (for Capt. David
    Miller, Managing Director, Miami River Commission)
    Bobby C. Billie, Spiritual Leader, Independent Traditional Seminole Nation of Florida
    Marilyn Bowden, Reporter, Miami Today
    J. Andrew Brian, President, Historical Museum of Southern Florida
    Maria Chiaro, Assistant City Attorney, City of Miami
    Billy L. Cypress, Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, Seminole Tribe of Florida
    Marie Denis, Department of Cultural Affairs, Miami-Dade County
    Stacey de la Grana, Historical Museum of Southern Florida
    Jim Grimes, Historian, Jupiter
    David Henderson, Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Office (MPO)
    Emily Holtrop, Historical Museum of Southern Florida
    A. Johnson, Reporter, Sun-Sentinel
    Shannon Larson, Daytona Beach
    Karen McGuire, District 6, Florida Department of Transportation
    Maria Nardi, Planning and Zoning Department, City of Miami
    Catherine Hummingbird Ramirez, Miami
    George Riggs, 3D Engineering and Design, Miami
    Ellen Roth, South Florida Regional Director, Office of U.S. Senator Bob Graham
    Paula Sessions, Gubernatorial Appointee to the Florida Acquisition and
    Restoration Council, Miami Springs
    Ann Harrison Smith, Palm Bay
    Steve Smith, Palm Bay
    William M. Straight, Miami
    Steve Stuempfle, Historical Museum of Southern Florida
    Ryan J. Wheeler, Bureau of Archaeological Research
    Warren Zeiller, Explorer’s Club, Miami

  3. Minutes of Meeting

    Item I. Call to Order

    The meeting was called to order at 3:40PM by Janet Snyder Matthews.

    Planning Group members were invited to introduce themselves.

    The minutes of the August 13, 2001 meeting had been distributed by mail. Jorge Hernandez made a motion that the minutes be approved. Arva Moore Parks McCabe seconded the motion. The minutes were approved without amendment.

    Dr. Matthews outlined the goals of the meeting, which focused on LAMAC project design of May 1999, including measures to protect and stabilize the site, provide for interim public education and access to the site, management of the site, to restore access to the Miami River, and the status of the National Register of Historic Places nomination for the site. Also on the agenda is the identification of individuals and groups who will make presentations on possible long-term uses of the site at the nest two meetings.

    Billy Cypress, Executive Director of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, Seminole Tribe of Florida was introduced as the Tribe’s designee to the planning group.

    Item II. Consideration of a Resolution in support of congressional authorization for a study regarding incorporation of the Miami Circle/Brickell Point into Biscayne National Park

    Dr. Matthews discussed background of the proposed senate and house bills sponsored by U.S. Senator Bob Graham and U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ross-Lehtinen that would authorize a study regarding incorporation of the Miami Circle/Brickell Point site into Biscayne National Park. Ellen Roth of U.S. Senator Bob Graham’s office was in attendance. Copies of the proposed legislation were distributed by mail prior to the meeting. A Resolution from the Miami Circle Planning Group supporting this legislation was circulated (incorporated here by reference). Arva Moore Parks McCabe moved that the Resolution be approved and forwarded to Senator Graham’s office. Becky Matkov seconded the motion. Discussion followed.

    Dr. Matthews indicated that the Acquisition and Restoration Council (ARC), which oversees acquisition and management of state lands, was scheduled to consider a similar resolution the following week. Brett Bibeau asked if the current planning process could continue while the legislation was under consideration. Dr. Matthews indicated that the planning group was obligated to continue and the proposed legislation and feasibility study would not interfere with the current planning process. Jorge Hernandez asked if there would be a problem in constructing something on the property if needed prior to the outcome of the legislation and study. Dr. Matthews indicated that was not a problem and the Resolution simply provided support for the study. Dr. Matthews shared maps prepared by the Florida Master Site File that demonstrated the large number of archaeological sites in the Miami-Dade County area, including some in Biscayne National Park, and indicated that the Miami Circle was well suited to interpreting these resources. No further discussion ensued and the Resolution was adopted unanimously.

    Item III. Issues identified in May 1999 Land Acquisition and Management Advisory Council (LAMAC) Project Design

    1. Securing and stabilizing archaeologically sensitive areas:

      Dr. Matthews introduced Michael Spring, Executive Director, Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs who had been working on options to better protect the Miami Circle feature and aid in making the site more accessible to the public. Mr. Spring outlined preliminary plans developed by his staff and a design team of a local architect, builder, and land planner to provide interim protection and access to the site. Mr. Spring proposed minimal work at the site, which would provide safe public access and a protective covering for the Circle. Work would involve a walkway from the parking area to the Circle, stabilization of the area around the Circle, and construction of a wood and thatch structure over the Circle. The structure would be a temporary one, with a life span of three to five years. Any work done would consider possible impacts on the archaeological resources and would be designed to minimize any possible impacts. The proposal from the design team provided a preliminary cost estimate of $385,000. The structure would be open-sided, but would have to be large enough to span the 38-foot diameter Circle. Possible funding sources include Miami-Dade County, the State of Florida, and private donations. Additional interim measures would include temporary interpretive signage developed by the Historical Museum of Southern Florida. Bob Carr noted that the design of the structure would allow visitors to view the Circle, but not walk on it.

      Jorge Hernandez asked if there were drawings of the proposed structure. Mr. Spring stated that drawings had not been prepared, but could be if the planning group felt this was the appropriate course of action. Mr. Hernandez asked Mr. Spring for more details about the structure. Mr. Spring stated that the circular structure would be built of wood, with open-sides, and a pitched palm-thatched roof. Truss construction would allow the structure to span the 38-foot plus diameter Circle feature. The poles would go into the ground five or six feet, with no concrete footing or minimal concrete footings. Mr. Spring indicated that the county commission might act as soon as January to ready financial resources and asked for the planning group’s endorsement of the proposed plan. Drawings would be circulated prior to the next planning group meeting. Mr. Spring noted that the construction work would take 8 to 10 weeks to complete, but securing funding and obtaining City of Miami building permits might extend this by several months. Arva Moore Parks McCabe asked about site security. Mr. Spring reviewed the history of county security at the site and indicated that the armed security presence had been discontinued. He further noted that the county was willing to reinstate security if it was needed for protection of the site or any buildings that might be constructed. Ms. Parks and Mr. Hernandez asked about the current covering of the Circle. Mr. Spring and Mr. Carr responded that the Circle was covered with fabric, but this would be removed if the thatch structure were built. Dr. Matthews introduced Maria Nardi of the City of Miami Planning and Zoning Department and asked if she had any comments. Ms. Nardi responded that the city was ready to help with the permit and review process once the building plans had been developed. Mr. Hernandez offered that minimal intrusion, site stabilization, and public access and education were important parts of the proposed plan, but that the Circle was a very physical and very sacred site and that plans for the structure were needed prior to the planning group’s approval. Mr. Hernandez suggested that the planning group support the design team’s development of drawings and plans for the proposed structure. The planning group would then review the plans at the next meeting and make recommendations. Linda Canzanelli asked if public access and some public recreation activities might conflict with the sacred nature of the site. Mr. Spring indicated that access would only occur with guided tours conducted by the Historical Museum of Southern Florida or other groups.

      Jim Grimes asked about further excavations of the site and if other features might be impacted by construction. Mr. Carr indicated that the State of Florida work demonstrated the extent of deposits on the property, but that most of the property is cover by fill, which serves to protect the archaeological deposits and features. Mr. Carr felt that the proposed plan would have little effect on the site. Mr. Grimes asked about further excavations. Mr. Carr indicated that the final recommendations of the planning group would address the nature of future research at the site. Mr. Hernandez suggested that walkways could be mulch or gravel and have little impact on the site. Mr. Spring offered that the proposed plan would be very sensitive to the archaeology of the site and to possible disturbance of the site. Mr. Grimes asked about long term plans. Dr. Matthews indicated that the present meeting was to focus on short-term plans, but the next two meetings would be dedicated to proposals for long term use of the property. Ryan Wheeler indicated that the benefits of covering the Circle would far outweigh possible limited impacts to the site, especially considering the friable nature of the oolite limestone. Dr. Wheeler mentioned that a monitoring program would be initiated to keep track of the Circle’s condition. Chris Eck indicated that the proposed plan would minimize traffic, limit changes to the property, and consider the sensitive nature of the site. George Riggs of 3D Engineering and Design asked if there was public interest in physical access to the site and if there was any interest in virtual tours. Michael Spring and Becky Matkov indicated that they received many inquiries about public access from citizens, groups, and the media.

      Dr. Matthews asked if there was a motion. Jorge Hernandez moved that the planning group endorse the design team of architects A.T. Franco and Associates, builder Val Deer, and land planner Doug Smith (Edward Stone Associates) to continue in the planning process, document their proposal, and submit drawings to the planning group at the next regular meeting to deliberate over and approve or disapprove. Michael Spring seconded the motion. Discussion followed. Brett Bibeau indicated that the Miami River Commission received many inquiries about access to the Miami Circle. Billy Cypress asked if any human remains had been found on the 2 acre Brickell Point property. Bob Carr indicated that no human graves had been found, but that during the analysis of materials from the site human teeth and a human patella (knee bone) had been identified from the property. Mr. Carr indicated that a small number of human graves might be present, but that most burials are probably at Brickell Park, and that no graves or human remains were associated with the Circle. Mr. Cypress indicated that prior disturbance had occurred at the site, noted that protection was needed, and asked about plans for future archaeological excavations. Mr. Spring indicated that no additional excavations were planned in conjunction with the proposed plan, but the planning group would make recommendations for future research. Mr. Carr indicated that there were no current plans for further excavations at Brickell Point. Jennifer Beber asked about virtual access versus physical access. Mr. Spring indicated that the attention the site had received suggested that people would want a firsthand experience with the Circle, but that virtual experiences were possible as well. Jorge Hernandez offered that virtual and physical access to the site was not mutually exclusive. Mr. Hernandez suggested that current updates on the internet would be helpful. Mr. Spring stated that there are a number of official and unofficial websites available, and that they should be promoted more. Dr. Wheeler mentioned the state and Historical Museum websites, which can be updated to reflect new information. There was no further discussion and the motion was adopted unanimously.

    2. Development and installation of an interim educational and interpretive display

      Dr. Matthews introduced J. Andrew Brian, President, Historical Museum of Southern Florida. Mr. Brian reviewed the proposed plans for temporary interpretation of the site, including two large banners that have already been placed on the inside fence. One sign (6 by 12 feet) has a photo taken during the excavations and a caption identifying the Miami Circle at Brickell Point site and the other has acknowledgements of major donors and participants in the acquisition process. The next phase will be placement of 8 by 10 foot banners on the existing billboard, identifying the site and providing one or two website addresses for further information. A further step is development of some interpretive signs that can be used on site in conjunction with the tours that will be offered by the museum. These will include information similar to that already used on the state, county and museum webpages. Bob Carr is helping develop training classes for tour guides.

      Becky Matkov asked if the planning group would have an opportunity to review the signs before they were erected. Mr. Brian agreed and shared the design of the signs already in place. Enid Pinkney asked about the acknowledgment sign. Jorge Hernandez asked about the next step. Mr. Brian described the banners that would be placed on the existing black billboard that had once been used to advertise the development of the Brickell Point property. Mr. Hernandez asked about the interpretive signs. Mr. Brian indicated that information from the grant-funded analysis would be used in developing the museum exhibit and interpretive signs. Mr. Hernandez recommended that the design of the signs be developed in conjunction with the plans proposed by Michael Spring. Dr. Matthews asked about the relationship of the interpretive signs and the Division of Historical Resources grant. Mr. Brian indicated that some of the grant money could be used for the signs. Jennifer Beber asked if the signs could identify the site as a Native American site. Linda Canzanelli asked if interpretive and educational themes had been developed. Mr. Brian indicated that was part of the grant-funded analysis and museum exhibit. Mr. Spring clarified that there were several categories of signage, including the acknowledgment sign, a promotional sign for the billboard, and interpretive signs, which would be developed as part of the proposed interim plan.

    3. Management of property:

      Dr. Matthews noted that Debby Kearney, General Counsel for the Department of State, was unable to attend the meeting to discuss the status of the lease and sublease agreements. Dr. Matthews indicated that she had discussed the current interim management agreement with Mark Glisson, administrator in the Division of State Lands, Department of Environmental Protection. Mr. Glisson indicated that the present agreement was appropriate for the current use and maintenance of the property, but that other activities, such as the proposed plans, might require a new agreement

    4. Re-establishment of pubic access to the site’s waterfront:

      Dr. Matthews introduced Brett Bibeau, Assistant Director of the Miami River Commission. Mr. Bibeau discussed the Miami River Greenway and the possible place of the Miami Circle/Brickell Point site in the greenway. The Miami River Commission and the Trust for Public Land are partners in developing the Miami River Greenway. The greenway is a continuous path around both shores of the 5.5-mile river. Mr. Bibeau distributed copies of The Miami River Map and Guide and the conceptual plan for the greenway, featuring 18 historic sites. Greenways, Inc. has prepared the Miami River Greenway Action Plan. A copy of the plan was passed around, and is available on line at (look at minute’s page). The greenway will follow a course adjacent to the river where possible, but might deviate slightly to incorporate important sites or features. Historic sites to be incorporated into the greenway include the Miami Circle, the Wagner Homestead, Fort Dallas, Flagler Worker’s House, Brickell Park, Point Park, Hindu Temple, Scottish Rite Temple, Miami River Rapids Park, Miami River Inn, and others. Funding for historical markers to identify sites is pending. The greenway will unite multicultural neighborhoods, including Little Havana, Overtown, Spring Garden, Allapattah, Melrose, Grove Park and others, and provide links to parks. The City of Miami, the Miami-Dade County Commission, the Metropolitan Planning Organization, and other groups have approved the greenway plan. Mr. Bibeau asked that the Trust for Public Land make a Powerpoint presentation at the next meeting, and asked that the planning group entertain motions to support the Miami River Greenway concept as a portion of the Miami Circle plans. Dr. Matthews asked if there was a motion. Enid Pinkney moved that the planning group forward a Resolution in support of Mr. Bibeau’s suggestion. Becky Matkov seconded the motion. Discussion followed.

      Billy Cypress asked about the conceptual plan and the path of the greenway. Mr. Bibeau explained where the proposed greenway path would be on the Miami River Commission map. The map shows the Miami Circle/Brickell Point property as part of the proposed path. Mr. Bibeau noted that the path of the greenway does not have to follow the river’s edge at the Brickell Point property, but may follow a course along the edge of the bridge and along the access road separating Brickell Point and the Sheraton Hotel, then connecting to the riverwalk behind the hotel. Any development of the greenway on the Brickell Point property will take into consideration the archaeological deposits. Billy Cypress asked about the configuration of the greenway trail. Mr. Bibeau explained that the optimum configuration was a 20-foot wide path with landscaping and a walking path. In some places this was not possible. Mr. Cypress asked about the condition of the seawall, and Mr. Carr indicated that it required some stabilization. Mr. Hernandez offered an amendment to the motion, which stated that the planning group would endorse incorporating the Miami River Greenway concept into the plans for the Miami Circle, with the proviso that nothing physical would be done to the site without the proposal coming before the Miami River Planning Group and the other appropriate oversight agencies for review. Mrs. Pinkney accepted the amendment. Discussion followed.

      Mr. Bibeau assured the planning group that any development of the greenway on the Brickell Point property would be brought before the group and other necessary review agencies. Chris Eck asked about the timeline for development of the greenway. Mr. Bibeau indicated that some portions of river walk were already in place, some portions were proposed and approved, and there is $6 million in place to fund further segments of the greenway, with a total project cost of $23 million. The greenway will be developed from east to west, with the Miami Circle/Brickell Point site toward the eastern terminus. Chris Eck seconded the amendment proposed by Mr. Hernandez. The amendment was voted on and adopted unanimously. The amended motion was voted on and adopted unanimously.

      Billy Cypress asked whether various alternative routes for the greenway would be considered in the area of the Miami Circle. Mr. Bibeau indicated they would consider all alternatives.

    5. Listing in the National Register of Historic Places:

      Dr. Matthews presented the background for the nomination of the Miami Circle/Brickell Point site to the National Register of Historic Places. Dr. Matthews explained that the Florida National Register Review Board considered such nominations and forwarded their recommendations to the National Park Service. Ryan Wheeler reported that the nomination was presented to the review board on November 16, 2001 and received favorable comments from the board, which ultimately recommended listing the site at state and local levels of significance and forwarded this recommendation to the National Park Service. Some planning group members expressed concern that the site was not nominated at a level of national significance. Dr. Wheeler explained that this decision was based on the recommendation of Dr. Judy Bense, archaeologist and member of the Florida National Register Review Board. Further it was explained that considerable analysis has not been completed of the materials from the site, which may support significance at the national level, and that the unique nature of the site makes it difficult to compare with other significant sites throughout the country. Linda Canzanelli pointed out that the question of national significance could be addressed as part of the congressionally authorized feasibility study discussed earlier in the meeting. Dr. Wheeler noted that was part of the proposed legislation presented by Senator Graham’s office. Ms. Canzanelli emphasized that the assessment of national significance be a focus of the congressional legislation. Arva Moore Parks McCabe expressed concern over the listing of the site at a level of state and local significance, when a case was being made for inclusion in Biscayne National Park. Mr. Carr asked if the nomination should be withdrawn. Ms. Canzanelli suggested that the nomination continue but with language that indicated there was a proposed congressional study to consider the national significance of the site. Dr. Matthews indicated that the site, largely due to its unique character, would ultimately be considered for listing as a National Historic Landmark, if the analysis and documentation supported this. Dr. Wheeler agreed that it was the unique nature of the site that made it difficult to assess and compare with other significant Native American architectural and archaeological sites. Jorge Hernandez further emphasized that it was the uniqueness of the site that required caution and extreme sensitivity with any actions taken. Linda Canzanelli supported conducting routine monitoring of the site. Dr. Matthews asked Dr. Wheeler if he had anything to add to Michael Spring’s discussion under the earlier agenda item. He reiterated the plans to begin monitoring the site for adverse changes, and noted that several well-known conservators had been consulted with already about this program.

    Item IV. Closing remarks

    Dr. Matthews reviewed the events of the meeting, including adoption of the Resolution to support the congressionally authorized assessment of national significance and feasibility study regarding inclusion of the Miami Circle/Brickell Point within Biscayne National Park, Michael Spring’s proposed plans for construction of a temporary thatch structure at the site to protect the Circle and allow for public access, the Historical Museum of Southern Florida’s plans for signage, tours, and interim interpretation, the Resolution to support the Miami River Greenway concept as a portion of the Miami Circle plans, and the nomination of the site to the National Register of Historic Places.

    Dr. Matthews thanked the Planning Group and attendees and indicated that the next meeting would be held in March in conjunction with a public forum. The public forum will be held the night before the planning group meeting.

    Dr. Matthews asked that planning group members and meeting attendees help identify individuals and organizations to present concepts for the long term use and interpretation of the Miami Circle/Brickell Point property. These presentations will be made at the next two planning group meetings and public forums.

    Jorge Hernandez offered several final comments, emphasizing that anything done in the interim should be sensitive to the unique nature of the site, and anything planned for the long term should be of the highest level of quality and excellence in order to properly respect the site and the cultures that produced it.

    Meeting adjourned at 5:10PM.

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

    Catherine Hummingbird Ramirez, Carib Tribal Indian Queen, recounted her involvement with the Miami Circle over the last three years. Mrs. Hummingbird Ramirez offered a prayer and presented certificates recognizing the contributions of Bobby C. Billie and Bob Carr. Mrs. Hummingbird Ramirez conducts a ceremony at the Circle every Tuesday at 6:00PM. Mrs. Hummingbird Ramirez asked that the Native peoples be included in any plans for the sacred site. She felt that preservation of the site was positive for Miami-Dade County, and that the planning group was moving in the right direction.

    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. Mr. Billie stated that historical interpretations of Native people were inaccurate and asked that the truth be told about indigenous people. Mr. Billie emphasized the relationship of the Miami Circle and Brickell Point with Brickell Park where human burials have been discovered and felt the two could not be separated. He spoke about the spiritual aspect of the site and related sites, and asked for respect for Native people.

    Respectfully submitted,

    Ryan J. Wheeler
    Archaeology Supervisor