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Possible Graves Found Under Tropicana Field Parking Lot, Report Finds

A aerial view of the area surveyed by Cardno for possible human remains.
This image shows the location of the former Oaklawn, Evergeen, and Moffett cemeteries. Cardno surveyors focused on the Oaklawn plot, since the Evergreen and Moffett sites sit underneath the on-ramps to Interstate 275.

The city of St. Petersburg has hired an engineering firm to scan the 7.4 acre site with ground-penetrating radar.

There is evidence of three possible graves underneath a parking lot at Tropicana Field and eight "areas of interest," according to a report from the city of St. Petersburg.

In March, the city hired Cardno to scan the area with ground-penetrating radar. The site was once home to Oaklawn Cemetery, a burial ground used by St. Petersburg's Black community from the early 1900s to mid 1920s. Two other cemeteries — Evergreen and Moffett — were located just to the south.

Many of the graves were moved after the land was condemned for street expansion and apartment construction. No remains were found at the site when Tropicana Field was build in the 1980s, but workers unearthed a skull and other bones during construction of Interstates 275 and 175 in the 1970s.

"Several possible burials consistent with those identified through GPR (ground-penetrating radar) and ground truthing at other historic cemetery sites were identified within the southern portion of the property, and additional areas of interest were also pinpointed," Cardno concluded in its report. "GPR can give an idea as to the location of historic burials, but it cannot identify smaller objects such as individual human skeletal elements."

"While the number of potential graves discovered is small, it is not insignificant," Mayor Rick Kriseman said in a statement. "Every person has value and no one should be forgotten. This process is of the utmost importance and we will continue to do right by these souls and all who loved them as we move forward."

Several "lost cemeteries" in the Tampa Bay region have rediscovered in recent years, including Zion Cemetery in Tampa, a site in Clearwater, and at MacDill Air Force Base.

Bradley George was a Morning Edition host and reporter at WUSF until March 2022.
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