JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Florida Department of Transportation on Wednesday said surveys reviewed before starting highway construction on the Northside of Jacksonville showed no evidence of a cemetery.
The statement from FDOT comes a week after remains of multiple people were found at a road construction site on Main Street at the Interstate 295 overpass and on private property on Eastport Road about 3 miles away from where crews were recovering fill dirt for the project. A human skull and other bones were found when a bulldozer pushed through a pile of dirt being used to build a new ramp.
All processes and guidelines that are in place were followed by FDOT when selecting the dig site, according to a spokesman.
“The City of Jacksonville survey, while it does mention the Eastport Cemetery, also notes that its survey was unable to find the location and that, by the city’s record, there were zero graves at the site,” FDOT spokesman Troy Roberts said. “It is unfortunate, but the cemetery was not officially documented. FDOT understands the importance and sensitivity of these historic sites.”
A document connected to the Eastport site explains that there was once a church — Wesley Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church — on the site. The area was also called Pollywood and a small African American community was there.
News4Jax obtained photos that were taken at the scene which include images of bones, rocks, old wood and a tombstone of a man who died in 1936.
It could take months for investigators to positively identify all of the remains found.
There is also a petition on Change.org to preserve the Eastport/Pollywood site. The petition says it “seeks to appeal to the mayor and City Council to nicely and appropriately landscape the new I-95/I-295 interchange, to name the area “Pollytown Memorial Interchange” and to place a historical marker at the location where the remains were found.”