FORT MYERS, Fla. — Preserving the past, while looking toward the future, is a push and pull cities across the state are experiencing.
As more development is needed to accommodate all the growth we’re seeing, The issue came up in Fort Myers when some raised concerns that the site of a new luxury apartment complex could have once been a Native American burial ground.
At Monday night’s City Council meeting, the city said there is not enough evidence to stop construction.
Members of the community say this is something they don’t want happening again and one group gives a suggestion on how to prevent it.
“This area is known to be where the fort was located and of course,” Gina Sabiston, Chairwoman of the Fort Myers Historic Preservation Commission, said of the area between Fowler and First where the new luxury apartments are set to go up, “The fort would have had to have a cemetery.”
According to Sabiston, the area was originally a homestead, “Which would have been someplace where a family lived, farmed, and possibly could have buried some of their family members there.”
Sabiston says those documents can be found at the Lee County Property Appraiser Office and in historical records.
While it’s not certain if there are human remains at the site, there is a significant amount of oral history to go along with it.
When surveying items or areas Sabiston says they use certain criteria, “If something is associated with a significant person or event or is of significant architectural value,” then that would be a historical artifact according to Sabiston.
Right now the way the law is written, it’s a requirement that archaeological research is done, but unless human remains are found, then there’s no requirement for the report.
Sabostin said moving forward, something to think about, “A requirement that we legally could put in place that it would be provided.”
As for that site at First and Fowler in Downtown, the developer says they have done an archaeological survey, but a city spokesperson says they have not released the findings.
We have also requested the report from the developer but we have not heard back.