The fight in Mayflower over a piece of land for possible development may be over for now.
Developers have withdrawn their request to complete part of a subdivision in an area that could contain more than 300 graves, according to the Arkansas Archeological Survey.
Following a Mayflower Planning Commission meeting Tuesday that was attended by members of the Palarm Missionary Baptist Church and the Friends of Ida Bell Cemetery, no development will continue in the area, city officials said.
The planning commission had already required an environmental study of the area, the cost of which may have turned away future development. Those who attended the most recent meeting were greeted by the commission with the fact that nothing else was in their hands until any report about the location of grave sites had been established.
Cemetery Hill, where two cemeteries may be located, is near River Road Loop in Mayflower, and Byron McKimmey had attempted to develop subdivisions on the land previously, said Skip Stewart-Abernathy of the Arkansas Archeological Survey.
“[McKimmey] is on record as violating various regulations and agreements with the Little Rock District Corps of Engineers and the City of Mayflower,” Stewart-Abernathy said. “There is nowhere on the crest of the hill or on its north, east and probably south slopes that dozing cannot hit his burials.”
Residents of River Plantation Subdivision have joined with members of Palarm Baptist to make sure all grave sites are accounted for, and Andrew Timmer from the property owners association said that they have been able to identify more than 300 sites.
"We have been able to mark the physical ‘Wagon Trail’ entrance to Ida Bell using 23 markers located on the north slope or the proposed development,” Timmer said. Many times the area found is a depression of land and a small stone can be found at one end facing east, which would constitute a headstone.
Prince Fuller of Palarm Baptist said these cemeteries would most likely be home to slaves in the area from the mid-19th century. The older churches would have been started on plantations, and the ability to mark these graves is of historical importance.
Ida Bell Cemetery is home to African American Union veteran Wilson Burke, and it houses several Mosaic Templars of America stones as well as those from other groups.
Commission members attempted to ease fears from the two groups, pointing out that the commission had already asked for official studies to be completed before any recommendation would come from the group.
“No one here wants to run over any cemeteries,” commission member Jamie Patrick said.