‘Vero Man’ site garners further protection, lecture planned tonight

VERO BEACH – The Vero Beach City Council is the latest to lend its support to preserving and protecting the ancient “Vero Man” site, a piece of land were two sets of ancient human remains were found alongside remains of long extinct large mammals including a mastodon and a saber-toothed cat.

The support came just two days before the Emerson Center will host a lecture and “fossil road show” on “Vero in the Ice Age.” The free program begins at 5 p.m. today with the road show, with the lecture following at 7 p.m.

The city council approved with a 4-1 vote a resolution in support of designating the site as an Archaeological Zone and clarifying that any artifacts found at the site are property of the City of Vero Beach, except as authorized by the city council.

Councilman Brian Heady opposed the resolution due to concerns he has regarding the potential of the city using the resolution to try to lay claims on artifacts that have already been unearthed and are in private hands.

“I don’t want us to chase after artifacts that have been found that are well known,” Heady said, adding that he wanted to avoid disputes over ownership of particular artifacts.

Heady made a motion that the property ownership issues would not apply to people who were already in possession of artifacts.

The motion failed as no council member seconded the proposal.

City Attorney Charles Vitunac said the resolution reflects no change in policy, that the site and any artifacts found have always been city property.

Councilman Tom White clarified that the resolution would be effective “from this date forward,” meaning the date it was approved by council.

The city’s Historic Preservation Committee was also authorized to pursue having the Vero Man site listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

City Manager Jim Gabbard had previously promised the county’s Historic Resources Advisory Committee that the city would install No Trespassing signs, ask the Vero Beach Police Department to step up patrols in the area, and fence off the sensitive property.

So far, the signs have been installed and police presence has increased. However, the fencing has not yet been installed. When that might happen in unclear.

The lecture tonight at the Emerson Center will feature Dr. Barbara Purdy, an archaeology professor at the University of Florida who visited the site and surrounding properties earlier this year.

The event will be held at the Emerson Center March 4 starting at 5 p.m. with Fossil Road Show followed at 7 p.m. with a discussion with Dr. Purdy.

The Fossil Road Show will be similar to the popular Antiques Road Show, serving as a time when residents can bring their artifacts to the Emerson Center to have scientists evaluate and figure out what they have.

The Emerson Center is located at 1590 27th Ave., Vero Beach, one stoplight south of State Road 60.  For more information, call (772) 778-5249 or visit www.TheEmersonCenter.org.

 Reporter Lisa Zahner contributed to this report.

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