Palmetto Bay

Deering Estate replaces boardwalk over Cutler Burial Mound


Deering Estate rebuilds the boardwalk over its Cutler Burial Mound, the resting place of more than a dozen Tequesta Indians and a prime archeological site.

If you go

What: Deering Estate at Cutler

Where: 16701 SW 72nd Ave., Palmetto Bay

When: Natural areas tours (including the Cutler Burial Mound) depart daily at noon; park hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, closed Christmas

Cost: $12 adults and $7 children, ages 4-14

Information: 305-235-1668 ext. 233 or visit

About three-quarters of a mile deep into the grounds of the 444-acre Deering Estate at Cutler, the ecosystem seems to exist in another dimension

Indeed, the 16,000 or so annual guests who walk through the hammock on paths once trod by Native American cultures including the Paleo-Indian, Tequesta, Seminole and Afro-Bahamian will notice a distinct change in temperature and a permeating peace.

“When you take this walk you can feel yourself leaving one ecosystem and entering another. The whole environment feels totally different,” observes Mary Petit, executive director of the Deering Estate Foundation.

“The hammock is five to 10 degrees cooler in the summer months and five to 10 degrees warmer in the winter months. It maintains its own biosphere,” explains Jennifer Tisthammer, the Deering’s assistant director.

Here, on dirt path grounds once groomed by the ancient residents of South Florida dating back some 12,000 years, today’s texting, plugged-in South Floridians come upon one of the most peaceful spots in the county: the Cutler Burial Mound.

On this tranquil, lush spot lies the remains of about 12 to 18 Native Americans, mostly women and children, buried face-down in a circular pattern, much like the spokes of a roulette wheel. An oak tree said to be between 400 to 600 years old protects the burial mound, its roots extending majestically outward and deep to cradle the Tequesta’s beloved who are buried beneath.

Also here, a sturdy new boardwalk affords visitors, school kids and nature lovers a safe passage over and around the protected grounds. The new bridge, recently opened, replaces one built 20 years ago by a group of local Eagle Scouts. That labor of love project lasted many more years than anyone expected but had grown worn with time. The new boardwalk, built with pressure-treated pine at a cost of $90,000 and funded by a challenge grant from the Batchelor Foundation and Deering board members John and Suzuyo Fox, will play a role in the Deering’s educational programs for school-age children as well as for regular park guests.

“The significance of the bridge is that the boardwalk was created to help give the public access to a very sensitive archeological site on the grounds,” Tisthammer says. “The boardwalk circumnavigates the whole site and is built organically into the natural landscape but it also hugs the exterior of the mound itself.”

Constructing the boardwalk wasn’t as simple as designing one for the average backyard or park, however.

Due to the sensitive nature of building on a burial site, the boardwalk’s wooden pilings had to be placed in the footprint of the earlier boardwalk, despite the new structure’s slightly larger scale. A cantilevered system helped achieve its grounding. Workers could not use machines to dig so all the digging was done by hand. Saplings could not be disturbed and ground cover was minimized as much as possible. Representatives from DERM, the National Forest Community, the Village of Palmetto Bay and the county’s resident archaeologist were on site during construction so as to maintain proper regulatory and stewardship responsibilities, especially during the movement of any soil, said Petit. “It was slow and arduous, but it’s finally done. I don’t think at the time the Scouts built it was going to be such a central piece to our archaeological program.”

In fact, the construction of this seemingly uncomplicated wooden structure turned into the most substantial collaborative effort since the reconstruction of the park following the destructive Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

“One of the biggest challenges we have as resource protectors and yet creating programs and providing access to the estate, is how do you give appropriate access and how can you talk about this lost history in the best way possible while respecting these cultures? The boardwalk allows us to do this,” Tisthammer says

Once daily, except during the summer months, Deering offers tours to the burial mound.

The mighty oak stands guard, framed by the new observational boardwalk. The artifacts it hovers over will remain, rather than be unearthed and placed under glass in a museum.

“From a Native American standpoint, and from an environmental or ecological standpoint — the social, cultural, ecological issues there — the best thing about this site is to leave this site as is,” Tisthammer says from the boardwalk, shaded by the foliage in the stillness of a recent afternoon.

Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.

Read more Home & Garden stories from the Miami Herald

Trays are a great and stylish way to keep your home organized and beautiful.


    Style at Home: 5 terrific ways to use trays

    If you went on a scavenger hunt for a tray in my home, you’d find one in every room. In the 33 years I’ve worked in interior design, some of the decorating foot soldiers I use to style my home have come and gone (anyone remember tassels?). But trays are here to stay.

 <span class="cutline_leadin">BUTTERED UP: </span>The glass dome on this Victorian butter dish is known as ‘Rubina.’


    Unusual Victorian butter dish still valuable

    Q: This butter dish was given to my grandmother over 50 years ago. It is 5 inches in diameter. The markings on the bottom part of the metal are “Rogers Smith & Co.” with “Meriden Ct, Quadruple, 7, USA.” Are you able to give us any information on this piece?

  • Washington Report

    Is spring the time to list your home?

    It’s common knowledge verging on holy writ in real estate: Spring is the absolute best time of the year to sell a house.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category