NORTH PORT — It’s 800 feet down a narrow gravel road off Price Boulevard.
And about 11,000 years old.
“I call it the gateway to the past,” said Steven Koski, archaeologist for Sarasota County, of the trail leading back to Little Salt Springs. “It should always be gravel. It should not be groomed.”
One of the two major mineral springs in North Port, Little Salt Spring has always played second fiddle to the more popular Warm Mineral Spring.
The public cannot visit Little Salt Spring without special permission, no one bathes in it and there are no tours of it. It sits, secluded and unnoticed, on 112 heavily wooded acres just south of Price Boulevard, within shouting distance of Glenallen Elementary School.
In addition to his unofficial role as the “keeper of the spring,” Koski is the president of the Warm Mineral Springs/Little Salt Spring Archaeological Society and an officer of the Friends of the Little Salt Spring, Inc.
He also goes out and speaks about the spring and its bigger “brother” Warm Mineral Springs. On May 23, he was in Port Charlotte, addressing about 25 members of the Charlotte Harbor Archaeological Society.
During recent underwater archaeology excursions, The Little Salt Spring site has yielded artifacts dating back 11,200 years. Early visitors considered the spring a place to fish, hunt and bury their dead, experts believe.
Owned and administered by the University of Miami, the explorations ended in 2013 as funding ran out. Since then, visitors have been few and far between.
Meanwhile, North Port keeps growing and expanding around it.
Koski’s nightmare is that nearby platted lots are developed, putting a tighter stranglehold on the site.
“Once we lose one of these historical areas,” he said, “there is no putting it back in place.”
His dream is that the site is protected and preserved and used as a educational resource for the area.
“I could see it used to teach children about our past and the people who lived here thousands of years ago,” he said. “Undeveloped, it has great potential.”
Koski said North Port leadership has become more aware of the significance of Little Salt Spring and other historic sites.
“Better and better,” he said. “They are aware of what these places mean and their value.”