OCTOBER SPEAKER: Archaeologist Kathy Gerace

WHERE DID COLUMBUS FIRST LAND IN 1492?
THE DESCRIPTIVE AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE

For nearly 500 years there was controversy among scholars and lay people over the exact location of Columbus’ first landfall on his maiden voyage in 1492. A review of historic documents, maps, and descriptive photos will be discussed to show why there were numerous theories, but by the 500th anniversary in 1992 some undeniable evidence had come to light through archaeology.
During the 1980’s, under the direction of Dr. Charles Hoffman of Northern Arizona State University, excavations of a Lucayan Indian site on the western side of San Salvador Island, Bahamas, unearthed numerous European artifacts. Analysis of these artifacts revealed they were of Spanish origin and dated from the very late 1400’s. The significance of these finds cannot be overstated, as it provides further proof that the island of San Salvador was the location of Columbus’ first landfall in the New World.

Kathy Gerace holds a MS degree in anthropology/archaeology from Michigan State University. In 1971, she was teaching at Elmira College in Elmira, NY, when she was asked to teach a four-week field course in historic archaeology on the island of San Salvador in The Bahamas. It was meeting the Executive Director of the field station, Dr. Donald Gerace, that led to their marriage and Kathy becoming the Assistant Director of the field station.

Over the years the field station grew to provide a venue for scientific studies and research for over 100 colleges and universities from the US, Canada, and Europe. In 1988 the Geraces formed a Bahamian, non-profit corporation named the Bahamian Field Station (BFS). Knowing that they couldn’t live forever, the Geraces gave the BFS to the College of The Bahamas (COB) in 2003, and it was renamed the Gerace Research Centre (GRC). When the COB became the University of The Bahamas (UB), the GRC became one of their campuses, and continues to provide accommodations, lab and field equipment, and all types of logistical support for professors, students, and scientific researchers in the disciplines of archaeology, biology, geology, and the marine sciences.

THE NORTH PORT NATURAL WILDLIFE CORRIDOR

An environmental initiative by the Friends of Little Salt Spring is gaining momentum. The concept of the Myakkahatchee Creek, Little Salt Spring Greenway Corridor was introduced at the Annual Meeting of the Friends of Little Salt Spring January 17, 2017 during a presentation by Steve Koski titled “The Archaeology of the Uplands at Little Salt Spring and Significance of the Ecology Surrounding the Spring.” He explained the overall concept developed by the Friends of Little Salt Spring to establish a conservation corridor from Myakkkahatchee Creek to Little Salt Spring to maintain an open land access for wildlife from one conservation area to another, a distance of approximately 0.5 miles.

On January 30, 2017 an article appeared in the North Port Sun by the Viewpoint editor, “Little Salt Spring: Preserving, Protecting a Unique Heritage,” stating “Our Position: The Little Salt Spring greenway corridor deserves serious consideration.” The editorial was followed by an article by FLSS President and guest columnist Lawry Reid that appeared in the North Port Sun February 1, 2017, “Preserving Green Corridor Near Little Salt Spring.”

From the FLSS web site: http://www.friendsoflittlesaltspring.com/wildlifecorridor.html
“The goal of the initiative is to preserve the approx .5 mile natural corridor that connects the Myakkahatchee Creek with the Little Salt Spring Archaeological and Ecological Preserve. This last remaining natural corridor is threatened by development that would further fragment the Little Salt Spring Archaeological and Ecological Preserve from Myakkahatchee Creek; effectively isolating this sensitive property and disconnecting it from abutting native habitats that also serve as critical pathways for naturally occurring wildlife species inhabiting the region extending from the creek to the spring.” “This initiative would extend the conservation corridor from Myakkahatchee Creek, just south of Butler Park, north, through approx +/- 6 acres of private vacant land and approximately +/- 60 acres of vacant wooded land owned by the Sarasota County School Board abutting the 112-acre Little Salt Spring Archaeological and Ecological Preserve.” The plan would require the acquisition of private land (35 lots owned by two owners) and a conservation easement of all or a portion of the vacant School Board, Heron Creek Middle School woods property. The road design and pending construction of the Spring Haven Drive extension would also need to take this vital natural corridor into consideration.

Once preserved, this Natural Corridor would:
● Be compatible with and complement the City of North Port Myakkahatchee Creek Greenway Master Plan;
● Preserve the last remaining wildlife corridor connecting the Myakkahatchee Creek environmental preserve to the Little Salt Spring environmental preserve, crossing the proposed Spring Haven Drive road extension;
● Expand passive nature trails from Butler Park into six or more additional acres;
● Provide ecological educational opportunities in the form of a living laboratory for the students of Glenallen Elementary School, North Port High School, and Heron Creek Middle School;
● Prevent further fragmentation of a critical ecosystem (Little Salt Spring) and provide a buffer for a relic ecosystem surrounding the spring, which has survived through natural succession from the late Pleistocene (ending 11,000 BP) through the Holocene era (11,000 BP to present). This is one of the most significant natural and cultural resources in the Southeastern United States.