One of FPAN’s primary goals is promoting heritage tourism to Florida’s fantastic interpreted archaeological and historical sites. These sites range in age from thousands of years old, such as the Miami Circle and Ft Walton Beach Temple Mound, to the Colonial Era including Castillo de San Marcos and Mission San Luis, to more recent sites such as sugar mill ruins and Florida pioneer homesteads. The tangible remains of Florida’s maritime past can be visited as well, including land sites and historic shipwrecks.
These sites represent the unique and fascinating history and heritage of our state. They contribute to Florida’s character and our citizens’ sense of place and belonging. They add to the visual beauty of small towns and huge cities, and help us remember how we grew into the vibrant, cosmopolitan melting pot that is modern Florida. They also, perhaps most significantly, contribute to our state’s economic prosperity. A study published in 2010 entitled Economic Impacts of Historic Preservation in Florida (available here: www.flheritage.com/preservation/economic-impact.cfm) states that over $4 billion – yes, that’s billion with a b – is generated each year by historic preservation in Florida! This is revenue from museums, archaeological sites, preserved Main Streets, and historic villages, not Disney and golf courses. It does include income from jobs created as part of the heritage tourism and preservation industries, tax revenues, and museum operations. Jobs related to preservation range from service and hospitality, retail, construction, and maintenance, to interpretive guides, researchers, and exhibit designers.
Tourists who visit historic sites stay longer in hotels, eat in more restaurants, and visit more attractions. They also gain an appreciation for the places they visit, which in turn leads to increased preservation and visitation. A federal study, the National Travel & Tourism Strategy (available here: www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/loader.cfm?csModule=security/getfile&pageid=295021), stresses the need for the United States as a whole to promote our historic sites and cultural attractions to boost tourism by both citizens and international visitors. This study states that 40% of overseas travelers seek out historic sites to visit. These visitors are looking for, and expecting, genuine, authentic experiences and opportunities to learn about the real history of the places they visit. Florida can provide that like no other state!
For this reason, if for no other, Florida needs to protect its heritage sites, whether they are standing, buried, or submerged. When our historical and archaeological sites are destroyed – by vandalism, looting, construction, treasure hunting, or whatever – we lose not only a piece of our past, but a chance for our future as well. One of the most useful things you can do is contact your state legislator, county commissioner, and city council and ask them to pass legislation and ordinances to protect your community’s heritage!
Della Scott-Ireton, PhD, RPA
Florida Public Archaeology Network