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Roundabout plans shift road to leave cemetery untouched

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A cemetery that includes the final resting place of Greenwood’s first mayor will remain untouched when a roundabout is built nearby.

Greenwood Cemetery, located on Main Street just west of U.S. 31, is the final resting place for some of the city’s pioneers and a handful of Civil War veterans who came before them. A roundabout designed to improve traffic flow will be shifted in order to preserve the history of the 37-acre cemetery.

The cemetery was created in 1884, and at the time the area was primarily farmland. A home stood along Main Street just west of the cemetery’s current entrance, and the water pump still stands. Now the cemetery is surrounded by residential neighborhoods that thousands of people call home, with restaurants and shops just down the road.

Horses and buggies would have slowly moved along Main Street when the cemetery opened, but now cars, motorcycles and trucks frequently back up at the intersection of Main Street and Averitt Road — a three-way stop near the southwest corner of the cemetery.

The city of Greenwood will begin construction on a roundabout there to ease the backups. Officials will start accepting bids next year for the $921,100 project, which borders a portion of the cemetery. But the roundabout will be shifted slightly south of the intersection to avoid having to move any graves like what had to be done during a widening of State Road 135 a few years ago.

Greenwood Cemetery is about 37 acres and has about 16,000 people buried there. Greenwood’s first mayor, Walter Burkhart, is buried there, along with several other mayors, cemetery superintendent John Armes said.

When he first heard about the roundabout, Armes said, he was concerned that a lot of graves were going to have to be moved, but city officials said that would not be necessary.

Civil War veterans can be found in one area of the cemetery, and a plaque marks where several pioneers were reburied after previously being laid to rest in Presbyterian and Baptist cemeteries, including John B. and Jane Brewer Smock, who are credited with building the first cabin in Greenwood in 1823.

Greenwood city officials considered the cemetery when planning the roundabout at Main Street and Averitt Road. Early on, the decision was made to buy land across from the cemetery and shift the center of the roundabout to the south. The city spent $42,782 on land acquisitions for the project, Greenwood community development services director Mark Richards said.

The shift will save the city the costs of getting land from the cemetery, such as legal fees and any costs of moving graves. The city would have had to make a request to the Indiana Department of Transportation to move any graves but never seriously considered that option, Richards said.

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