Memorial Park Cemetery in East Tampa
The City of Tampa is committing time, money, and manpower to protect many historic burial grounds that have been previously forgotten or abandoned. This includes taking over the maintenance, trimming the tree canopy, and replacing dilapidated fences of Memorial Park Cemetery in East Tampa.
In 2021, Mayor Jane Castor asked her team, led by Ocea Wynn, City of Tampa Administrator of Neighborhood and Community Affairs, to establish a task force to address the issue of abandoned burial sites holistically and they have made a lot of progress. This includes tackling the problems from several fronts.
“Protecting forgotten, abandoned, or vulnerable cemeteries are the right thing to do,” Mayor Jane Castor said. “This is a high priority in our history, and it should be respected and honored appropriately.”
Partnering with Community Leaders
City of Tampa staff recently helped the Zion Preservation and Maintenance Society become a non-profit entity. The City of Tampa also contributed $50,000 toward a memorial, completed a work plan to receive state funding and applied for multiple grants.
City staff have been attending the Zion Preservation and Maintenance Society meetings since its inception two years ago. They have also been attending meetings with the Tampa Housing Authority, NAACP and other community leaders about Zion, Memorial Cemetery, College Hill, and Showmen’s Rest.
Advocating for Land-Use Changes
The City of Tampa worked with Tampa City Council members to change the land use category of all but one city-owned cemeteries to "park lands and open space” to further protect them by restricting development. City staff is currently working on the last cemetery, Jackson Heights, to facilitate the land-use change.
Mayor Castor also directed her staff to go one step further in working with the Hillsborough Planning Commission and Tampa City Council to create a new land-use category just for cemeteries for additional protection.
At the mayor’s request, the City of Tampa Development and Growth Management Administration also sent a letter to the Hillsborough County Planning Commission, acknowledging the County’s recommendations and asking to see expanded policies that include:
- Additional protection for city-owned cemeteries, including potential preservation, protection, and potential national/local landmark designation.
- Policies to address if new lands are discovered and measures to ensure the respect of remains
Before the City of Tampa Staff started maintaining Memorial Park Cemetery.
After the City of Tampa Staff started maintaining Memorial Park Cemetery.
Memorial Park Cemetery
Memorial Park Cemetery is one of the burial grounds where the City has dedicated significant resources to improve the site since the death of the property owner two years ago.
More than a century ago, Memorial Park was established as a burial place for African American veterans of the world war, and many of the soldiers who died in France were laid to rest here.
The City of Tampa cannot touch headstones or graves because they are considered private property. However, City staff have filled depressions with dirt and cleared plant growth, helping protect, maintain and restore the burial sites.
“These historic cemeteries are a visible record of Tampa’s unique history,” Wynn said. “We are proud to work with community partners in not only maintaining them but protecting them from encroachment and development. Their historical importance is to be celebrated.”
City of Tampa Staff members, under the direction of Mayor Jane Castor and Ocea Wynn, have helped protect historic burial grounds like Memorial Park Cemetery.
Cemeteries Owned By City of Tampa
(per municipal code)
- Woodlawn Cemetery
- Oaklawn Cemetery
- Jackson Heights Cemetery
- Marti-Colon Cemetery (Colon section is privately owned)
- Centro Austuriano Cemetery
Cemeteries NOT Owned By City of Tampa
- Colon section of Marti-Colon Cemetery
- Memorial Park Cemetery (the city is maintaining)
- Showmen’s Rest (adjacent to Woodlawn)
- Schaarai Zedek (adjacent to Woodlawn)
- Rodeph Sholom (adjacent to Woodlawn)
- Pyramid Crypts (adjacent to Woodlawn)
- Beth Israel (adjacent to Woodlawn)