INDIANAPOLIS — City leaders announced a $21 million expansion to the Indianapolis Cultural Trail on Tuesday, but that expansion is causing conflict with historical preservation efforts.
The Indianapolis Cultural Trail is expanding its territory. The new development, dubbed the “White River expansion project”, will link downtown’s wholesale district to near west side neighborhoods by adding one mile along South Street, Kentucky Avenue and Henry Street.
A new Henry Street bridge is set to be built south of Washington Street next year connecting more people to downtown.
“Thinking about the difference that this portion of the trail is going to make to this community…I just could not be happier,” said Marianne Glick regarding the Cultural Trail’s expansion to the west side of the White River and to the West Indianapolis community.”
However, some local historians argue it could do more harm than good as construction is taking place on the site of the former Greenlawn Cemetery.
Officials need to be prepared for the possibility of finding unmarked graves and human remains during construction, one expert said.
“The developers and historians in the city have always known a cemetery existed there, but it was believed that most of the bodies had been reinterred in a Memorial Park,” said Eunice Trotter. “However, it has been discovered that bodies have been found as late as the 1900s.”
Trotter, the director of the Black Heritage Preservation Program in Indianapolis, and other historians said they believe there could be hundreds or even thousands of bodies underneath the burial site.
Now they’re asking the city for an archeological dig before continuing the project.
“It includes several different sites that will be built there, so the cemetery will be included in that redevelopment,” Trotter said. “That’s why it’s important to do the work now. Before they build a building on those grounds.”
In a statement, the Indianapolis Department of Public Works said they will do a “respectful recovery and analysis” of any remains encountered during construction.
If remains are found, DPW plans to dedicate a memorial along the bridge.
A public meeting on the bridge project and archeology plan is being held Tuesday night at the Biltwell Event Center.