Little Salt Spring could be sold to Sarasota County

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NORTH PORT, Fla. - Little Salt Spring is considered by some to be one of the most important archeological sites in the country, if not the world.  And now Sarasota County could have the opportunity to purchase the spring from the University of Miami.

The water in the spring, located off West Price Boulevard near Glenallen Elementary, has no oxygen or light, which makes it perfect for preserving the past in a way few other places on Earth can.

"It goes back 12, 15, 18,000 years," says researcher and site manager Steve Koski.  For decades, underwater archeologists, and the likes of even Jacques Cousteau, have explored the site, finding remains of the first humans, extinct animals, wooden tools, and layers of plant life which even explain climate change.

Now with funding tight, the University of Miami, which was given the 112-acre site by the General Development Corporation in the early 1980's, wants to move on. "For the last several months there has been uncertainty (as to) what exactly UM's now interest is in the site," says Koski.

The potential suitor could be Sarasota County and its Sensitive Lands Program. In a statement the school says "The University of Miami has identified the County of Sarasota as a potential steward to continue the preservation of Little Salt Spring for future generations of Floridians. The University is not abandoning the site, and has taken the necessary precautions to secure the property."

"I'm encouraged. I think that Sarasota County has shown their stewardship throughout the county." Bill Goetz is a member of the not for profit group called Friends of Little Salt Spring. He believes the site could become an educational destination for many. It's believed less than 5% of the spring has been studied. "There are not too many spots on the entire planet that you can look at this time frame and see it so pristinely."

Tuesday, county commissioners heard about the university's potential application into the program. They suggested a review by the county's sensitive lands advisory committee, but seemed open to the idea.

Koski says it's worth a hard look. "Little Salt Spring is one of the most phenomenal pieces of property in Southwest Florida, in Florida, in the Southeast."

In the end it will likely come down to how much the site will cost. An answer county leaders say they don't yet know.