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Tampa City leaders take new steps to protect local cemeteries

Tampa City leaders take new steps to protect local cemeteries
Tampa City leaders take new steps to protect local cemeteries 02:01

TAMPA, Fla. (Tampa Bay Now) - The City of Tampa is taking new steps to protect local cemeteries.

This comes after city leaders met on Tuesday to approve a cemetery preservation plan.

"We want to make sure they are properly honored and those families get closure," said Fred Heatns, president of the Zion Cemetery Preservation Society.

Hearns is talking about a gravesite in Tampa.

"There are hundreds of graves there. Black people who died there in the early 1900s," said Hearns.

Those graves can no longer be seen. The Tampa Housing Authority began investigating the gravesite back in 2020 and Hearns says multiple buildings had already been built over the land.

"Once the concrete is poured and construction begins, in most cases, it's almost too late to do anything....My message to the families is to make sure this never happens again, not only for your family members but for others," said Hearns.

That's exactly what the City of Tampa is now taking steps to do.

"We added policies to restrict development on these cemeteries," said Stephen Benson, Tampa City Planning Director.

City leaders met on Tuesday and detailed new protections for cemeteries and gave historical designation to these areas.

"So we can have access to preservation grants," said Benson.

Now cemeteries will receive funding to fix headstones, landscaping and preventing future development projects from being built over graves.

"Ground penetration radar is used today as a tool to find out what is beneath the ground without having to dig it up," said Benson.

Hearns says the new policies will help not only current cemeteries, but will protect those the city has yet to discover.

"They deserve to have the same dignity that families needed to have the same kind of consideration that people who were buried in cemeteries that have been protected, have," said Hearns.

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