SOUTH BURLINGTON -- For cyclists traveling to Williston from the Butler Farms and Oak Creek Village neighborhoods on Hinesburg Road, a path eliminating the trip down Kennedy Drive to get to Kimball Avenue would be ideal.

Trouble is, prehistoric American Indians felt the same way.

In its plans to add a quarter-mile section to the city's 20-mile bike path through the commercial development on Tilley Drive, the Recreation Path Committee has uncovered an interesting problem: The recently proposed path had been used before. In a letter to the site's developer in 2004, the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation noted the 75-acre Tilley II subdivision contains an extensive prehistoric American Indian site, with artifacts that could date to 9000 B.C.

The property, bounded to the south by Interstate 89 and to the east by Technology Park, contains the main stem and a tributary of Potash Brook and its associated wetlands, and was first identified as containing archaeologically sensitive areas in August 2003, during the Act 250 permitting process for the development.

In September 2003, the University of Vermont Consulting Archaeology Program conducted a Phase I site identification survey of two significant zones along the Potash Brook, neither of which were proposed for development at the time.

Surface collection of a plowed portion of the land identified three areas with concentrations of cultural artifacts, including an Early Archaic projectile point, stone tools, and fire-cracked rock; subsurface collection identified a probable fire hearth. Spear points and arrowheads point to several occupations of the land between 7000 B.C. and A.D. 1600 -- a significant portion of Vermont's historical sequence, according to the letter.

Characteristics of the people of the Early Archaic Period (7000-5500 B.C.) include the use of chipped-stone tools and a hunter-gatherer lifestyle that predated sedentary farming practices.

The study concluded that one of the three areas, located on the northeastern portion of the site, contains important information about the period and meets criteria for inclusion on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. The confirmed site and another potential site were mapped with 30-foot buffer zones to protect against topsoil removal, grading and other ground disturbances associated with development.

The study recommended that should maintenance of the buffer zone become impossible, further archaeological study be carried out before construction so mitigation measures -- including additional site evaluation, data recovery or redesign of proposed project components -- can be completed before development. No other portions of the parcel were found to contain significant artifacts.

"Archaeological sites like this one are more prevalent around the Champlain basin than in other areas of the state," said David Mace, director of communications for the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development. A development project that would potentially affect the site would require amending the Act 250 permit originally granted for commercial development on the property, Mace said.

The proposed Tilley Drive-Community Drive bike path connection would pass through the site to meet a section under way from Kimball Avenue to Williston, providing a direct link for travelers from neighborhoods on Hinesburg Road to the town.

"We had budgeted money for archaeological surveys, but certainly not anything like this," said Lou Bresee, chairman of South Burlington's Recreation Path Committee. "This is clearly the long pole in the tent."

The committee obtained a $200,000 federal transportation enhancement grant, with a 20 percent match by the city, to construct the quarter-mile stretch of path; the amount is less than the $300,000 the committee had requested.

Bresee will meet with survey archaeologist Scott Dillon of the state Division for Historic Preservation, and a representative from the Vermont Agency of Transportation on Wednesday to discuss re-routing the path.

"We want to come to an equitable solution that protects the environment and the history, and also allows for a bike path to go through there," Bresee said.

Contact Sara Buscher at 651-4811 or