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Randell Research Center on Pine Island acquires 5 more acres

By Staff | Mar 24, 2015

ED FRANKS Randell Research Center director William Marquardt, center, explains the importance of the two mounds that have been added to the center’s acreage.

The Florida Museum of Natural History’s Randell Research Center on Pine Island, once home to the Calusa Indians, has acquired an additional 5 acres containing two important shell mounds. The announcement was made last Monday morning.

“Thanks to all of you for coming today, this is a dream come true,” said Randell Center director William Marquardt. “Since the original gift of property by the Randell family in 1996, we have wanted to add these mounds to the area that we protect and interpret for the public.

“We were able to purchase these five acres because of a $150,000 gift from the Sear Family and $50,000 from the Calusa Land Trust,” Marquardt said. “With this property we have acquired two mounds: the Smith Mound and the Low Mound. These two mounds have been here many, many years and were described as early as 1895. The Smith Mound is mostly made of sand because it was used as a burial mound probably around 1,000 A.D. The Smith Mound is named after Capt. John Smith, who saved the mound from being taken down entirely in 1926.”

Donor Judith Sear said the Sear Family Foundation was pleased to augment funds already raised and set aside by area residents through the land trust.

“When we heard about the possibility of preserving these archaeologically significant mounds and adding to the Calusa interpretive site, we simply couldn’t pass on the opportunity,” she said.

“This acquisition was also made possible with the help of the Calusa Land Trust,” Marquardt said. “The trust donated $50,000.”

“For those of you that are not familiar with the Calusa Land Trust, we are Pine Island’s all-volunteer land conservancy,” said John Kendall, president of the trust. “We own over 2,000 acres, our land book value is $3 million. And we’ve also donated money to Lee Counties 20/20 program. In the world of land conservancies we are very small. So when Cindy Bear came to a board meeting and asked for $50,000 to purchase these 5 acres I said,

Cindy, that’s $10,000 an acre!’ She said, ‘No it’s more like $40,000 an acre.’ Well interestingly it’s in our mission to ‘acquire, preserve and protect environmentally sensitive lands.’ It goes on to say, ‘historical and archeologically important properties on Pine Island.’ I suppose the real question is how do you put a price tag on a 1,000-year-old aboriginal burial site? Priceless! We voted overwhelmingly to blow our budget and write a check for $50,000.”

“As you know the Randell Center has been here since 1996 when Donald and Patricia Randell donated about 53 acres to establish the Center,” Marquardt continued. “Although Donald and Patricia are not with us any more, they’ve both passed away, their three children are here: Cranden Randell, Debbie Randell and Ricky Randell. They are all supporters of the center.”

A fence and thick vegetation currently obscure the mounds, but Marquardt said future plans include clearing the invasive species and opening the area to the public.

“We’ll need to raise additional funds to extend our fence around the new properties, and then extend the Calusa Heritage Trail so that our visitors can walk out to see the mounds,” Marquardt said. “This acquisition makes our total acreage about 67 acres and this new acquisition will eventually be added to the site’s educational interpretive trail.”

For additional information on the Randall Research Center, call 239-283-2062.