Circular Reasoning

Wouldn't it be nice if someone arranged a celebration marking the fifth anniversary of the discovery of the Miami Circle? A day of speeches, music, and perhaps a glimpse of Miami's "Stonehenge" to sweeten the pot. Well, such an event is planned but you're not invited.

Almost five years ago a nondescript apartment building at the mouth of the Miami River came down to make way for new high-rises. At the site archaeological exams uncovered a remarkable surprise -- a 38-foot circular design worked into the limestone. Although cut bedrock is difficult to date, other finds reached 2500 years of age. The world gasped as Miami, the big city with the short history, grabbed the gold ring. Right on schedule, the weirdoes and media mongers appeared and an aroused public demanded the spot be preserved for posterity. After losing the property in a legal battle, the developer walked away with $26.7 million in his pocket. Expensive, yes, but the government could protect this jewel from common business concerns and open it to visitors. At least, that's what taxpayers thought.

Five years later the initial archaeological studies are barely completed and no park plan has been developed, let alone implemented. There just isn't money right now. Despite county officials keeping the masses away with a locked fence, the circle is deteriorating rapidly and perhaps for the first time in thousands of years, the land sits fallow. Unless you count the rituals led by Catherine Ramirez. Each Tuesday night at 6:00 p.m. the self-described "Caribbean queen" and a band of followers hold a spiritual service at the property's gate. Despite her lack of professional qualifications or official sanction, some are glad that her group serves to scare away vandals from the otherwise unsupervised site.

But Ramirez may be holding out on the public as well. According to an invitation/flyer, her group plans a special event from noon to 6:00 p.m. Saturday. A call to Ramirez inquiring about the festivities was met with deliberate redirection, and a gracious invitation to the Tuesday meetings was offered instead. Seemingly the public will be unwelcome on Saturday. Odd considering Ramirez has been one of the most vocal proponents of opening the site to the people.

This begs the obvious question: If we entrust the state and county government with our most fragile landmarks but they neglect them and keep ordinary citizens away from them, what was the point of preserving them in the first place? Had the site remained in private hands, government scrutiny would have been intense. Nevertheless the site most likely would have been permanently protected and public monies could have been directed to more pressing concerns. In a best-case scenario, the condos might have included a public park. As it is, the committee in charge, the Miami Circle Planning Group, rarely meets and recently decided to cover "Miamihenge" with gravel to prevent further erosion. Did South Floridians force the purchase of the ruin just for this?

Should you wander over to Ramirez's event, you likely won't see the circle or any artifacts. They're housed downtown at the Historical Museum of Southern Florida. But it's worth taking a chance, considering the imminent reburial. This is your treasure, South Florida. If you ever get to enjoy it, treat it as such.