Supporters of a historic Irving cemetery fear future neighbors may use a new wall going up between them to block access to the burial ground.
The Shelton’s Bear Creek Cemetery along Highway 161, south of Airport Freeway is a place where slaves were buried.
A new street with a cul-de-sac in a new subdivision adjacent to the cemetery provides access that was not available in the past.
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Jamie Simon has ancestors in the cemetery. He visits often.
“And last week I seen them putting this big wall up,” he said. “I was shocked.”
The wall is being built on private property between the new public street and the old cemetery.
An opening in the wall is intended to provide a gate through which visitors could pass through on the way to the cemetery. But a steep hill sloping down the Highway 161 is on the other side of that opening. It is not the most direct path to the cemetery.
Simon said cemetery supporters had been pushing for a new entrance to the cemetery, directly beside the new cul-de-sac.
“We was thinking about moving the gate over here, to make it easy for people with wheelchair to get in instead of over there,” he said.
Now, cemetery supporters have been told a future homeowners association could decide to entirely block access to the gate that will be on private property.
Anthony Bond has been working to protect and preserve the cemetery for decades.
“The homeowners association, they got another thing coming if they think they’re going to have the power to lock us out of a public street,” Bond said. “These people buried here will never be forgotten and they will never be ignored again.”
Irving City Council Member Dennis Webb said the developer agreed to provide access to the cemetery in the first place. Webb said the wall might also protect the cemetery from vandals or kids playing in the new neighborhood. He said he is working with the developer to see that future homeowners could not block the path.
“We want to make sure that there’s never an opportunity or never a chance that we cannot access that gate through that property,” Webb said.
In an email reply to questions from NBC 5, Marvel Homes said it has now also agreed to allow the City of Irving to build a sidewalk from the public street to the cemetery. The company did not provide an answer about whether a future HOA would be prohibited from blocking that path.