December 24, 2006

Former Burial Site is Labeled ‘Historic': After Years of Delays, a Historic Former Tequesta Indian Burial Mound Won Protective Status By the County’s Historic Preservation Board

By Laura Figueroa, The Miami Herald

Dec. 24--Though the future of Madden's Hammock, site of a former Tequesta Indian burial ground, has long been shrouded in uncertainty, the area now will be protected, following a unanimous vote of the county's Historic Preservation Board on Wednesday to classify the land as a historic site.

At a meeting held at the Miami Lakes Community Center West that was heavily attended by Miami Lakes residents and town officials, the board quickly approved the request for the protected designation for the nearly seven acres of land owned by the family of the late developer Lowell Dunn Sr.

The decision came after less than 10 minutes of presentations by residents and representatives of the Dunn family, all speaking in favor of the historic classification. It put an end to nearly two decades of efforts to attach some sort of county protective status to the land that experts say contains Indian burial remains dating back 2,500 years.

"This site is very significant to the area," said Jeff B. Ransom, the county's archaeologist.

"It is one of the highest elevations in the county. Geologically, it is one of the most fascinating features in the county."

Under the archaeological zoning status granted by the preservation board, any ground disturbing activities on the site would have to be first approved by the county.

The designation was lauded by several Miami Lakes residents who have long favored the town purchasing the surrounding land from the Dunn family for the creation of a passive park.

The town was close to purchasing 55 acres of land surrounding the leafy oak tree hammock and mound in 2004 but the plan fell through because the Dunns wanted $8.3 million -- which was $300,000 more than the town, with the support of the county and the state, was willing to pay.

"If the town is smart, it will still try to get the land for a park," said resident Pedro Carballo, who was pleased with the historic designation after 10 years of attending preservation board meetings dealing with Madden's Hammock.

Wednesday's decision does not limit the scope of development that can take place outside of the roughly seven-mile stretch protected by the archaeological zone.

"Anything outside of that is really fair game," Ransom said.

For years, Dunn tried unsuccessfully to get approval to build homes on the acres surrounding Madden's Hammock.

His son, Lowell II, attended Wednesday's meeting, where he accepted condolences from board members on the death of his father in November at age 72 from lung cancer.

The younger Dunn stood before the board to express satisfaction that the agreement was reached between his family and the county, after years of negotiations.

"Given enough time, every one can come up with a solution; that's what my mom always says," Dunn said.


Copyright (c) 2006, The Miami Herald

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