When it comes to the old Panama City-Bay County International Airport, moving into the future requires dealing with the past. According to airport officials, a few more issues must be resolved before the Federal Aviation Administration decommissions the facility. One of them involves some of the area’s earliest settlers.
A .643 acre portion of the property has been identified as an area of archeological significance and steps are being taken to ensure it remains undisturbed forever. At first glance, the parcel doesn’t stand out at all. But the FAA says items located below the surface make it special.
“The FAA asked that we establish an archeological easement so that this area is preserved and it remains in an undisturbed state,” said Randy Curtis, Executive Director of Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, which opened in May 2010.
The site is located off Frankford Avenue near 33rd Street, on the south side of Robinson Bayou. Shovel tests conducted by archeologists hired by the company that plans to develop the airport site uncovered ceramics, arrowheads and other artifacts. One item was dated to 2000 BC; however, most artifacts are from the period 200 BC to 1200 AD. Historians say a village could have been located on the site.
“In contrast to most of the sites along the bay which seem to be just temporary camping grounds, the artifacts they found presented more evidence of a settled type community there,” said Bob Hurst, secretary of the Bay County Historical Society.
The society and City of Panama City have agreed to serve as joint custodians of the site and prevent it from being disturbed during development of the property.
“We have a great history in Panama City,” said Mayor Scott Clemons. “Sometimes we forget it’s just not just the hundred years that Panama City has been in existence, but back to all the cultures that were here before us.”
The Robinson Bayou site allowed early inhabitants easy access to larger waters and artifacts indicate a permanence not seen in other settlements. “They found flakes and arrowheads that would seem to indicate that maybe some type of industry perhaps was going on there,” said Hurst.
Curtis said the custodial agreement removes one more item from the decommissioning “to do” list. Another major component is demolition of the existing control tower.
St. Andrew Bay Land Company LLC plans to acquire and develop the property once the FAA releases it.